Louise Gillett was a blog visitor who recommended her own book: a memoir available for Kindle at Amazon. I was interested in what she had to say so did read her book. It’s not one that makes for one of my normal entries (illustration, excerpt, commentary) so am just writing a straight piece on it.
The book is a description of her life to date, lived mostly in Dorset in the south of England: she had a highly dysfunctional childhood with a very strange family. Her parents were unusual people with difficult lives and terrible problems, and it is clear that Louise and her many siblings - I lost track somewhat, but I think there were 9 children in the family – lived in considerable chaos.
So the story of her childhood is squalid and shocking, and an extraordinary mixture of poverty and plenty as her father made and lost money, and then became a hopeless gambler. Her mother became an alcoholic.
Gillett had increasingly difficult spells, which eventually led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia and some time in mental hospitals. She kept trying to build a new life for herself, but then something always went wrong – she had a number of failed relationships, she lived abroad for a time, she studied for a degree. Eventually she pulled her life together, with occasional setbacks, and seems finally to have found happiness. After reading her story you couldn’t be rooting for her more, and I hope the family life she has created will stay stable.
Gillett says she has always wanted to be a writer, and I found her style in this book to be most impressive: it is not very literary, it’s rough around the ages, but I just wanted to keep reading. There is nothing fancy about her style or her method of telling the story, but she has an excruciating bravery and honesty, which you can only admire and respect.
She does raise some very interesting questions about her diagnosis, and the whole concept of the terrifying word of schizophrenia. It is very plain – and I think she wouldn’t argue – that she really did have some serious issues. But the diagnosis seems to have been random and unhelpful, and the medication she was given not necessarily beneficial. At the most basic level, she finds out years later that some of the ‘symptoms’ she suffered were actually side-effects of her medication.
There is a lot of joke disrespect for the idea that ‘uneducated’ patients are busy looking up their symptoms on the internet these days, busy diagnosing themselves then having the nerve to take their conclusions to their much more knowledgeable doctors. On reading this book I thought what a good thing it is that nowadays people can look things up for themselves – I think it would have helped Gillett enormously to find out more about her situation and medication.
I’m very glad she drew my attention to her book, and very glad to have read it. Her honesty and openness can only help other people – which I think is what she would want. I wish her every happiness and success in her life.