A distinguished Iranian-born writer and creative writing professor’s memoir of her struggle with trauma, drug addiction, mental illness, and late-stage Lyme disease.
Physical and mental pain had always defined Khakpour’s (The Last Illusion, 2014, etc.) life. A child of the Iranian Revolution, her earliest memories were of “pure anxiety.” She survived the trauma of living in a war zone and moved from Tehran to Los Angeles. As she grew into adolescence, she writes, “everything about my body felt wrong,” and her feelings of dysmorphia remained one of the constants in an often chaotic life. In college, Khakpour, who had long been fascinated by the “altered states” that drugs could produce, began a “casual [long-term] relationship” with cocaine and cultivated the “heroin chic” look fashionable during the 1990s. In addition to her experimentation with drugs, the author endured harrowing experiences with sexual assault and depression. Khakpour’s post-collegiate life brought with it a series of difficult, sometimes-abusive relationships, graduate school at Johns Hopkins, psychotropic drugs to control anxiety, insomnia, and mood disorders, severe health problems initially diagnosed as autoimmune disorders, and “a seesaw of struggling to survive in New York and then running home to LA and then escaping back to New York.” Her life stabilized for a short time after she accepted a temporary position at Bucknell University. When her health began to fail again, she sought treatment in the New Age “healing vortex” of Santa Fe; but soon after she left, she once again became a prescription pill “drug addict.” It was not until she returned temporarily to California that a doctor officially diagnosed her with a case of late-stage Lyme disease, which would mean permanent recurrences of the breakdowns she had fought to overcome. Lucid, eloquent, and unflinchingly honest, Khakpour’s book is not just about a woman’s relationship to illness, but also a remarkably trenchant reflection on personal and human frailty.
A courageously intimate memoir about living within a body that has “never felt at ease.”