I'm reading a book by David Fitzpatrick called "Sharp"-about a young Irish Catholic young man who grew up in Southern CT, who shared some of my old stomping grounds when I lived in Westchester County, NY and in New Haven CT. This book is this young man's memoir of his childhood, but mostly of his struggle with mental illness. He was involved for years in self injurious behavior and was hospitalized for numerous, long term psychiatric stays. David was just a little younger than I but I related to many of his musical tastes and the icons he mentions from the seventies and eighties. As I read this book--the story of his breakdown and being put back together--it brings me back, intensely, to the years of my own similar struggles. In fact these reminiscences prompted me to add a chapter to my own memoir manuscript last night. These memories too, kept me awake in the twisted sheets on my bed....memories of my puppy, memories of the years of struggle and the relationships that littered those years.
Finally I fell asleep last night but it was only after some very uncomfortable haunting. It's been a while since I've allowed those past years to haunt me. I used to be constantly haunted by them...the specters of people long gone and places still echoing with the howls of miserable inmates resounding and swirling around in my mind. I think in my own memoir, I could use the reminder of some of those ghosts. It is too easy to tell a story without actually recalling the agony of it....without allowing yourself to be baptized in its misery once again. And this makes the story too sterile --too antiseptic--too wooden and lifeless.
David's story is a bit serpentine. Like a coiled serpent you aren't sure which parts come first and which come later. It coils back on itself and overlaps in slices of time. When an editor/writer friend of mine read "Treasures" she made the same comment...That she was sometimes confused about time and chronology....but she decided (as I did about "Sharp") that this confusion was inherent in the telling of a story where the main character is him or herself confused and reliving constantly times past. It would be impossible to simply start at the beginning and work one's way to the end.
Anyway. I'm not done reading "Sharp"....maybe I'll finish it today. But it has been, although uncomfortable, helpful in the telling of my own story.