The Yellow Wallpaper: A Therapist’s Reconsideration 130 Years Later

The Yellow Wallpaper: A Therapist’s Reconsideration 130 Years Later

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

The Rest Cure

The Rest Cure for women with “nervous conditions” in the 1880s yanked depressed women away from their homes, families, and friends for months of bed rest. Assuming women to be the weaker, more fragile, and hysterical sex, incapable of coping when stressed, the Rest Cure removed all socialization and stimulation. Strict rules governed each day: banning pens and writing paper, music-playing, sewing, and daily tasks of any sort. Nannies assumed all childcare.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in her 1892 short story The Yellow Wallpaper, chronicles the torment induced by a Rest Cure prescribed for a nameless female narrator. In this early classic of the feminist canon, the narrator falls into a depression after giving birth to her first child. Her husband, John, a doctor of good repute, takes charge of her so-called case, devises a Rest Cure, and rents a rural country home with high walls for a three-month stay.

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“A Review in Questions:” Odes to Lithium by Shira Erlichman

A Review in Questions: Odes to Lithium by Shira Erlichman (Alice James Books, 2019)

Reviewed by Crystal Condakes

A note from the author on the form: One of the things I love about this collection of poems is the frequent questions it asks. At their core these poems say: It’s okay to have questions, to question. Reading these poems made me wonder, and the wondering became questions of my own.

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Review: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

When Lori Gottlieb’s book, You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, came out, I kept it at arm’s length. As a psychologist in practice for 40 years, I what I thought would be the show-offy tell-all of another therapist.

Why would Gottlieb choose to write her story if not to appear in a good light? Wouldn’t she be self-aggrandizing? Wouldn’t the book reek of fake pseudo-modesty to keep the reader from judging her too harshly? Might her attempts at endearing us be, in fact, manipulations designed to keep us from taking a more penetrating look?

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Review: The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang (Graywolf Press 2019)

Reviewed by Claudine Mininni

Esmé Weijun Wang’s illuminating essay collection, The Collected Schizophrenias, details her tumultuous relationship with schizoaffective disorder. In her opening essay, “Diagnosis,” Wang writes:

Schizophrenia terrifies. It is the archetypal disorder of lunacy. Craziness scares us because we are creatures who long for structure and sense; we divide the interminable days into years, months and weeks.

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Review: Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot (Counterpoint 2019) 

Reviewed by Yollotl Lopez 

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot is like balloons filled with paint exploding against a white canvas — c. Heart Berries is Mailhot’s debut memoir told in a cyclical narrative touching upon her experience as a writer, mother, mental health patient, and partner all informed by her identity as a First Nations Canadian living in the U.S. It is the story of love, and loss, but most of all it is a story about storytelling. Mailhot writes:

“Things were created by story. The words were conjurers, and ideas were our mothers” (105). 

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Review: I’m Telling the Truth But I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi

I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying: Essays by Bassey Ikpi (Harper perennial 2019)

Reviewed by by Michele Matrisciani

There is an entire library full of memoirs, one that grows greater every day, concerning issues surrounding mental health. Over the course of my twenty years in nonfiction book publishing, I’ve acquired, edited, and ghostwritten numerous such books, all of which I hope have contributed to the robust dialogue and much-needed de-stigmatization of this topic. Nothing I have worked on or read over the years has accomplished in quite the same way what Bassey Ikpi does in her memoir essay collection, I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying: Essays.

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Review: This Close to Happy by Daphne Merkin

This Close To Happy: A Reckoning with Depression by Daphne Merkin (Farrar, straus, and giroux 2017)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

Not glamorous, not an artistically-hued state of suffering for the more sensitive souls on earth. Not a story that can be told with the dramatic climax and victorious transcendency that characterizes heroic tales. No. Depression is unabated suffering whose victims, often blamed for self-absorption, shunned as social pariahs, writhe in silence. Daphne Merkin, the writer and literary critic, tells her depression tale in the dark memoir, This Close To Happy: A Reckoning With Depression.

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Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (Penguin Random House 2019)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

I have never encountered a person who is not fully human in 35 years of private practice as a clinical psychologist. Diagnoses, country-of-origin, race, religion, and financial status do not define people. Not at all. Why do we say that a person has cancer or has arthritis and, conversely, say that a person is autistic or is an immigrant as if those labels completely define them?

Assigning labels condemns people to a marginalized purgatory. Perceived to be less than human, unable to love or feel pain, they’re relegated to the sidelines of life and deemed to be odd, bizarre, even dangerous.

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Review: The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks (Hachette Books 2007)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

Horrifying delusions and auditory hallucinations did not deter Elyn Saks from her Oxford University Master’s degree studies. Compassionate psychiatric care in England squired her through. But, later, as a law student at Yale University and in a psychotic state, Yale psychiatrists “bound both legs and both arms to a metal bed with thick leather straps” and forced medication down her throat. Multiple times. She plummeted into despair.

“A sound comes out of me that I’ve never heard before—half groan, half scream, marginally human, and all terror. Then the sound comes out of me again, forced from somewhere deep in my belly and scraping my throat raw. Moments later, I’m choking and gagging on some kind of bitter liquid that I try to lock my teeth against but cannot. They make me swallow it. They make me.” (4)

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