Memoir is a strange genre, we have a love hate relationship. When they’re good, they’re be-my-best-friend superb. I like the funny ones. Maybe downers like Running with Scissors are good, but I’ll never know for the same reason I still haven’t forgiven Bjork for Dancer in the Dark. Depressing stories are like stones in the pockets and I read to float in little bubbles of light you can sink your teeth into.
So why did I have to read Stacy Pershall’s Loud in the House of Myself as soon as I heard about it? Glad you asked. Because I stumbled on the conversation she shared in Psychology Today – Paranoia in Borderline Personality Disorder vs. Schizophrenia. I was floored. First because doctors so rarely write about their specialty with such depth and heart. Then I realized that she’s a patient not the doctor, that she’s covered herself in gorgeous tattoos and I want her to be my best friend.
Loud in the House of Myself is Stacy Pershall’s memoir of the first 35 years of her life, in which she was torn between a force of destruction and one driven to create. During that time she was diagnosed with BPD, Bulimia, Depression, Bipolar, Anorexia and maybe more. Unlike many people who stumble through the myriad of psycho pharmaceuticals, Stacy lived to tell about it. And then proceeded to take control:
…this body in which I am trapped is made of lightning bolts, robots, rockets, cats … My tattoos remind me of who I am and what I am made of.”
Stacy grew up in Christ-loving Prairie Grove Arkansas. After a few years of maniacally believing the lord could save her soul, she desperately wanted out. Her true mania kicked in at the most inopportune times – dreams convinced her that aliens wanted her to eat only potatoes while abroad in London, for instance.
Each chapter begins with a description of one of her tattoos, my favorite was the bone phone story, sharing the why behind the ink. These lent some needed humor and inspiration to the heaviest chapters.
Something that scarred me is exorcised, incorporated with me forever.
You can learn so much about certain disorders from the people who live with them. Her cycles of euphoria, crazy energy, irritability and other unpredictable mood swings help explain the high rate of accidental suicides among people who have BPD, she cites that 1 in 10 die by their own hand.
Borderlines have a tendency to fall epically in and out of love on a regular basis.
They strain relationships by turning those close to them into saviors, but the saviors get tired. One of Stacy’s most powerful messages is that they can only save themselves. It took 15 years of the wrong help and wrong medications (over 24 different kinds of “medicine”), but she made it through.
Whether Stacy Pershall’s story hits close or not, it will change how you think of mental illness. It’s a fantastic read for anyone looking to understand these things. So many times I cringed, but at the same time the honesty and insight of these very same messy scenes can blow your mind.
Here’s my favorite passage about how it feels to get a tattoo:
A second of intense pain is the most profound thing you can live through. And another, and another, and another, and then you know what it is to feel, and to struggle through that feeling one small agonizing increment at a time, and if you know that, you know what it is to live with mental illness.
But more than anything, I love that she has this tattoo [EDIT: Pershall doesn’t actually have this tattoo. I read it wrong and got excited! See her comment below.]:
I am wordy.
On a totally unrelated note, I’m about to try my hand at my first gluten free pizza crust. Wish me luck?