Book Ends: A Vision of a Dream by Angelina Darling
Reviewed by Columnist Kurt Sass
A Vision of a Dream is a book that I recommend for anyone that is in recovery from mental illness as well as family and friends. Its main message, at least to me as a mental health consumer, is that the definition of recovery is different to each of us. It is a personal definition. As a consumer, my recovery should not be based upon what my family/friends feel it should be, or what society thinks it should be. My recovery is my own.
The book starts out with a laundry list of “how to help a loved one struggling with depression” and “strategies for dealing with depression.” As with any of these lists, some items are extremely useful, while others not. Simply pick the ones that are applicable for your situation. On the list of helping a loved one, there are a lot of basics (cooking, shopping, etc), but the three I found the most helpful on the list to be: being kind, donate time and patience. On the list of strategies, the ones I found most helpful were: protect your sleep, make provisional appointments with friends and keep your chores down to three simple steps. Ms. Darling definitely knows the importance of self-care.
Ms. Darling then goes on to tell her life story, which includes numerous hospitalizations, (one in which she almost dies from an overdose of haldol), as well as having family members with bipolar disorder, some with tragic results. She describes how stopping her medications leads her into a psychosis in which she believes the mafia are after her. She also has bipolar disorder, and is a rapid cycler, sometimes transferring from mania to depression and vice versa in a manner of minutes. She has tried ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy or “shock treatments”), but they did not work, either. She had to stop after four treatments because they caused her mental confusion.
At the end of the book, Ms. Darling describes how her life is in the present. To be honest, at first I was feeling sorry for her, as her descriptions of her current job status, love life and even grooming habits had me feeling that she was not in a very good place in her recovery. But then I continued to read about how she has good energy, good clarity of mind, decent concentration and is no longer in the “worry mode.” She also feels that she has won the battle against her bipolar disorder, on what she says are the five fronts she was fighting: the illness; the denial; the side effects of medications; the self esteem; and society’s projection that she is worthless.
After reading this, it is obvious that I had no right to pre-judge Ms. Darling as to her recovery, just as my recovery belongs only to me.