An Iranian-American political activist and writer’s memoir of how she came to terms with her bicultural heritage and bipolar disorder.
When Huffington Post and Ms. blogger Moezzi was born in the United States in 1979, her fate was sealed—at least, according to theocrats who took over the country her Iranian doctor parents left behind. “I was both Westoxified (in the Ayatollah’s words) and highly inclined to lose my mind,” she writes. Unlike the children of those parents who stayed in Iran, Moezzi grew up affluent and surrounded by a huge extended family of other Persian exiles. But at 18, when her “westoxified” body rebelled against her for two years, Moezzi was forced to deal with both a life-threatening case of pancreatitis and what appeared to be a case of depression. Surgery seemed to cure her of both ailments, and her life resumed its charmed course. Moezzi traveled to Montana to spend a joyful summer (“I was sure that if God lived anywhere, it had to be Montana”) reconnecting with her Muslim faith, unaware that her euphoria was a manifestation of mania. She graduated from college and went to law school, where she developed an interest in the politics of Islam and also attempted suicide. Moezzi’s battles with her “mutinous mind” were far from over, however. While campaigning for Barack Obama in 2008, she experienced an even more severe mental breakdown that stemmed from full-blown mania. The author’s candor about her experiences in and with the medical establishment is bracing. Physical illness elicits sympathy, cards and flowers; however, she writes, “if you have mental illness, you get plastic utensils, isolation and fear.” Yet Moezzi knows that she has been lucky. Life in Iran—and possibly in and out of the Iranian jails that make “American psychiatric hospitals look idyllic”—would have been far worse.
A bold, courageous book by a woman who transforms mental illness into an occasion for activism.