This is probably the BEST memoir I’ve ever read in a long time. One that I’d happily stay up all night to read, if not for the fact that in this book you’ll realize that having sleepless nights can lead to frightening consequences. Mark married his college sweetheart, Giulia (pronounced like Julia, as she’s Italian) and life was picture-perfect. Until the stress from her job caused Giulia (aged 27) to have her first psychotic breakdown. The book chronicles the first, second and third episodes, ending in 2014. I think newly-weds and people who are intending to wed should read this book. If you’re a caregiver for a family member living with mental illness, this book’s for you too.
I found this YouTube video of Mark’s TEDx talk. If you’re going to watch it, get some tissues ready. I’ve never watched a 11-min TEDx talk that left me in tears and also had the audience give the guy a standing ovation. This is it:
“…when I got married at 24, I said ‘I’m here, till death do us part, in sickness and in health’. And when you’re 24 and you think you’re invincible, you don’t know what that means. And it’s until the health evaporates, that’s when you really get tested. That’s when the vow really counts.”
(Commitment) “It’s about standing by Life’s imperfections, no matter what.”
I can’t help but feel lots respect for this man who stood by his wife through it all. Through the psychosis and the depression that followed, through the delusional outbursts and the suicidal episodes, through the battle with healthcare professionals who’d probably admit they are just experimenting with the various medications to find the right cocktail of drugs that might help, and having to care for not just Giulia but also their little boy, Jonas.
No one gets married expecting that one day, their perfectly healthy spouse (with no prior mental illness) would have to be checked into a psych ward.
“I had lost my wife and gained a lifelong patient.”
So when you utter that vow, or now that you’ve already said it, are you prepared to stand by your spouse, no matter what? I think Mark has set a fine example regarding commitment to those marriage vows. I’m pretty sure there are many other men who would have balked at the idea of living with (and caring for) a loony wife. For Mark, it appears that there’s only Giulia, his “lovely wife”. Read this book ‘My Lovely Wife’ and you’ll gain a whole new understanding of mental illness and what it might entail, bearing in mind that every person has an entirely unique experience of mental illness.
p/s: On a scale of 1 to 5, this book is a perfect 10. 🙂