Guernica Magazine

A Case for the Mental Health Memoir

First-person testimonies are providing a vocabulary for mental illness that is honest and destigmatizing. The post A Case for the Mental Health Memoir appeared first on Guernica.
Cover image: Hachette.

One fateful afternoon, when he was twenty-six, author Zack McDermott left his East Village apartment convinced he was being filmed for a Truman-esque reality TV show. “I knew the people on the sidewalk were actors,” McDermott says at the outset of his debut memoir, Gorilla and the Bird. “Even the homeless people were a little too attractive.” It’s not until McDermott ends up shirtless, sobbing, and arrested on the L train platform that his sharp irony is beveled by urgency and vulnerability. At that point (the end of the first chapter), McDermott is brought to Bellevue’s psychiatric ward, where he is diagnosed with bipolar I disorder following this manic episode—his first. “Regaining sanity at

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