In this debut memoir, a teacher recalls how she became blindsided by mental illness.
“When did it all go wrong? How did I become a statistic, and what is mental illness anyway?” When Roger began having panic attacks, these were her questions. After all, she was living her dream: teaching music in public school, running her own private studio, and raising a family. But she was no match for the cards stacked against her, including a genetic predisposition to mental illness, emotional scars from childhood bullying, and a turbulent marriage. In addition, she recalls: “Teaching in the school system is like a pressure cooker for the soul.” Soon her anxiety was joined by severe depression, OCD, a suicide attempt, a bipolar diagnosis, and episodes of self-mutilation. Finally, she began her recovery with a two-week stay in a mental hospital and gradually found the necessary tools to heal. Loving parents supported her; new medications began clearing her mind; and she prioritized self-care. Her hardships didn’t cease: She faced financial implosion and the dissolution of her marriage. But she continued to carry on, eventually even finding a way to replace her prescriptions with holistic healing. In this raw and enlightening memoir, Roger’s trepidation is evident when disclosing highly personal details yet she courageously holds nothing back. In a particularly heart-wrenching scene about cutting herself, she writes: “I would begin to sketch horrible names sadly Frank regularly called me….My thighs became a dictionary. I loathed myself, because my husband loathed me.” Her spot-on descriptions of her psychological state should be highly valuable for those seeking to make sense of mental illness, either their own or a loved one’s (“I have this ability to analyze a situation and find the absolute worst-case scenario and then let it ferment”). Also noteworthy is her process of self-acceptance, from considering herself a “psycho” to simply realizing that her mind, like any other organ, was subject to illness. Overall, her genuine, perceptive, and optimistic prose is a pleasure to read.
An illuminating account that should be a vital tool in helping others, delivering both warning signs of mental illness and a road map to recovery.