Today Tanya Kaanta reviews Start by Graham Morgan. Available on Kindle and paperback.
Start by Graham Morgan
This biography does not gloss over or glamorise mental illness, instead Graham Morgan highlights that people can, and do, live full and positive lives.
Join Graham through his recollections of detention under the Mental Health act, learning to live with a new family, and coping with the symptoms that he still struggles to accept are an illness. He takes your through his preparations to address the United Nations in his role working with the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.
Graham Morgan has an MBE for services to mental health, and helped to write the Scottish Mental Health (2003) Care and Treatment Act.
This is the Act under which he is now detained
Review by Tanya Kaanta
Where to start with Start? This story is well-crafted work of opposites. Throughout the book, we see Graham Morgan struggling with having a mental illness. How it affects him, his relationships with his family, his wife, his child, his friends. And it’s both devastating and courageous. He doesn’t place blame on others, nor does he pretend he’s not part of the pain experienced by his loved ones.
Start is a memoir focusing on a section of Mr. Morgan’s life. More definitively, he focuses on how his existence has been altered and consumed by schizophrenia. How he can piece apart reality from his illness sometimes, while other times he struggles and knows in his bones that he is exactly what his disease says he is. Evil. Which is inherently part of the disease.
The book is a page turner and told in the first-person present. So often memoirs are told in the past and I feel this sets the book apart. I feel as if I’m presented the kaleidoscope of emotions as they happen to our author, and I sympathize with his daily struggles to piece together reality from illness. From seeking health and happiness to realizing his role in creating pain and havoc in his life as well as others. From being able to express himself truthfully without scaring others into believing he’s in need of supervised care again. Or when he actually does indeed need care.
Today I think, as I contemplate; I think I take a drink to find myself sleepy by nine. That I do it, not because I can’t face thinking, but because when I look at myself I find nothing there.
I find when I look at myself, that the soul of us that we treasure so much, that core, that identity, that purpose. That basic reality is not there.
If I said I do not exist you would say, ‘Oh he’s getting ill again!’
But if I say I have made so many layers, coated myself with so many identities, made a skintight coat of armour of me, with my work, my illness, my different roles, become so anxious and scared of enjoying myself that there’s just nothing much there, would that make sense?
I cannot see me. I do not identify with me. I think I drink to hide from that, to hide from the void inside me. I think that although I poke and prod and rummage around in my memories, I just cannot find me.
I think I drink to hide from this. This emptiness.
Start is raw, honest, and informative. The prose captivates. And I for one, and more aware of what living with schizophrenia might be like, as difficult as it is for me to ever truly understand.
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