Saturday 26 August 2017

Book ~ "My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward" (2017) Mark Lukach

From GoodreadsA heart-wrenching, yet hopeful, memoir of a young marriage that is redefined by mental illness and affirms the power of love. Mark and Giulia’s life together began as a storybook romance. They fell in love at eighteen, married at twenty-four, and were living their dream life in San Francisco. When Giulia was twenty-seven, she suffered a terrifying and unexpected psychotic break that landed her in the psych ward for nearly a month. One day she was vibrant and well-adjusted; the next she was delusional and suicidal, convinced that her loved ones were not safe.

Eventually, Giulia fully recovered and the couple had a son. But, soon after Jonas was born, Giulia had another breakdown, and then a third a few years after that. Pushed to the edge of the abyss, everything the couple had once taken for granted was upended.

A story of the fragility of the mind, and the tenacity of the human spirit, "My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward" is, above all, a love story that raises profound questions: How do we care for the people we love? What and who do we live for? Breathtaking in its candor, radiant with compassion, and written with dazzling lyricism, Lukach’s is an intensely personal odyssey through the harrowing years of his wife’s mental illness, anchored by an abiding devotion to family that will affirm readers’ faith in the power of love. 

Mark and Giulia met and fell in love when they were 18. Six years later, they were happily married, living and working in San Francisco. A couple years later, with no history of mental illness, Giulia suffered a psychotic episode and became obsessed with God and the devil. Mark took her to the hospital and she ended up being committed to a psych ward for about a month. Various combinations of medications were tried until the right one was found. Giulia was released but was very depressed and suicidal. Throughout this, Mark was trying to carry the load of maintaining the household, keeping his job and being supportive for Giulia.

Giulia eventually recovered and they worked to get their life back to "normal" (Giulia's illness had caused quite a strain on their relationship). She eventually got pregnant and they had a son named Jonas.  Then Giulia had two more episodes over the next few years but they learned that by letting Giulia have a voice in her recovery, she has more control.

When Giulia was in the hospital the first time and after she got home, there was a lot of pressure on Mark to care for her.  He's lucky he had his parents and her parents to lend a hand physically and emotionally, especially consider his parents lived in Japan and hers lived in Italy.  Their families have been supportive throughout the years.

This is Mark's story of Giulia's illness and how they dealt with it, with more emphasis on Mark.  I liked the writing style ... I found it interesting and honest.  Their lives had changed considerably when Giulia became psychotic (and then with her recovery afterwards) and Mark's role became that of a constant caregiver.  As a head's up, there is swearing (not surprising considering what they were going through).

Giulia, Jonas, Mark and Goose
Though everything seemed to get back to fairly normal after Giulia's first episode, I had to question their decision to have a child.  Giulia's illness had come on very suddenly and there was no guarantee it wouldn't happen again.  Mark had lamented the loss of his lifestyle and that he had no "Mark-time" when Giulia had gotten psychotic the first time.  Having a child to take care of would have (and did) make life more intense.  I also questioned their decision is letting Giulia become the sole earner so Mark could become a writer and then a stay-at-home father.  Stress seemed to push Giulia over the edge so that's the last thing she needed.

Since this is such a personal story, it would have been nice to have had some pictures so we could see what they looked like in happier days to make it easier to connect to their story.

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