One woman’s struggle with a rare neurological illness.
Sellers (Creative Writing/Hope Coll.; Chapter After Chapter, 2009, etc.) weaves a tale in which the adult version of herself pushes back against the adolescent version in search of the impetus of her illness, prosopagnosia. More commonly known as face blindness, it renders the victim incapable of differentiating between faces. The author discovered it while waiting in line at Walgreens. After staring at the celebrities on the cover of People, she realized, “I recognized the names—Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Britney, Jessica—but not the faces.” Her problem worsened as she embarked on a new relationship with her soon-to-be husband, Dave, whose previous wife suffered mental problems, and whom Sellers believes understands her own problems because his last marriage forced him “to pitch a tent in the land of the insane.” On a trip to Disney World with Dave and his children, she suddenly felt alone amid the swelling crowd, becoming frantic and shouting for the children. When she finally stumbled upon them, a dumbfounded stepson said, “She looked right at me,” to which Sellers could only reply, “I didn't see.” The author frequently switches the narrative back to her adolescence, recounting a family life in which her cross-dressing, alcoholic father played a unique foil to her paranoid schizophrenic mother. Sellers endured the worst from both parents, and she searched for escape during her freshman year of college. Yet she soon discovered that despite her difficulties with her psychologically unstable parents, she remained connected to them, particularly her mother, whose schizophrenic behavior, she believes, was just a few shades away from her own face blindness. For Sellers, every interaction is predicated by the knowledge that she will not recognize the person she’s interacting with—a problem that cannot be solved, only accepted.
A gripping personal account of the mental effects of an unyielding medical condition.