Surrounded By Madness: A Memoir of Mental Illness and Family Secrets by Rachel  Pruchno

Surrounded By Madness: A Memoir of Mental Illness and Family Secrets

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The heavy-hearted memoir of a woman who lost her mother and daughter to the bitter grip of mental illness.

Mental illness not only ravages those who suffer from it; it devastates their families as well. A developmental psychologist, Pruchno (Challenges of an Aging Society, 2007, etc.) is in a unique position to write about living with a person afflicted by a disease of the mind. Her mother committed suicide in 1975 after struggling with manic depression. Then, in a cruel twist of fate, her adopted daughter, Sophie, was eventually diagnosed with three illnesses: ADHD and bipolar and borderline personality disorders. Penned in a vivid, literary style that bleeds anguish, Pruchno’s story is a mother’s worst nightmare—raising a deeply troubled girl whose self-destructive tendencies led to risky sex, drugs and suicidal thoughts, despite efforts to help her. Pruchno recounts in tortuous detail Sophie’s downward spiral and how constant strife and anxiety robbed the family of any sense of normalcy. After Sophie was allegedly raped at age 11 by a camp counselor, her emotional swings carried increasingly dire consequences, including an aborted pregnancy at 16 and hospitalization in a psychiatric unit. The most shocking parts of the book are transcripts of Sophie’s online chats with a man whom she met for sex. While the author’s candor can be suffocating at times, Pruchno believes too many families struggle in secret. She hopes her experiences will spark a national dialogue on the damage mental illness inflicts on families. When Sophie turned 18, the author was forced to let her go to find “rock bottom”—a decision Pruchno intellectually accepted as necessary, though she agonized over the loss of her little girl. Since the book centers on a young person and leaves such a powerful impression, it would make a solid supplementary text for a college psychology course. Pruchno’s feelings of desperation and powerlessness speak more to the reality of mental illness than an academic case study ever could.

An unvarnished look at the destructiveness of mental illness, as told by a person who suffered at the hands of someone else’s demons.

Pub Date: March 24th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4575-2559-9
Page count: 344pp
Publisher: Dog Ear
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2014


by Ron Powers
IndieOUR STORIES by National Alliance on Mental Illness San Fernando Valley
by National Alliance on Mental Illness San Fernando Valley