Saturday, March 28, 2015
Resilience: Two Sisters, Mental Illness, A Trust Fun and Quite the Ride
Resilience: Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness is a memoir written by Jessie Close with journalist/advocate Pete Earley, plus a few 'chime in' chapters written by Jessie's actress sister, Glenn Close.
So let's start with family history. It's a good place to start and we learn that the Close sisters come from a line of those who were rich, famous and colorful -- ancestors with names like E.F. Hutton and C.W. Post. Not to mention great-uncle Seymour who thought he was a German spy then took hostages at gunpoint and had his chauffeur drive them home.
Close describes a happy childhood living on her grandparents' estate in Greenwich while her father remained in Manhattan for his surgery residency. Happy, until her parents joined the Moral Re-Armament or MRA, a religious cult. From there, the family began to fracture. First, it was just the parents who left and MRA nannies raised the children, but then the family moved to MRA-run estates in New York, then Switzerland, and finally Jessie -- the designated problem child-- joined her parents in Africa. She describes a lonely, chaotic childhood marred by anxiety and abandonment.
From here I'll avoid plot spoilers and just tell you that what follows is a story of sex (and more sex), drugs, alcohol, as well as some rock & roll with much of the compulsive energy being explained by either mania or depression. There are five marriages and three children, countless houses, cars, and dogs, and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder along the way. Jessie eventually lands in a place where she is more comfortable, balanced, and in control of her emotions and behavior.
Psychic peace, in this case, comes at a price. Recovery is not a smooth road for Jessie and in giving up her mood swings, my sense was that Jessie lost a part of herself. So if you worried that this would be a placating story of how psychiatry is all good, rest assured that the author has her share of rare adverse reactions to psychotropic medications, not to mention a struggle with medication-induced weight gain which she minimizes. In the end, she finds solace in her own company -- something she seemed to find unbearable before -- and decides that she needs to forsake romantic relationships. These tradeoffs are those a person will make only when their pain is unbearable.
The bottom line on the memoir: two thumbs up. The book is a quick read as Jessie Close pulls you on to her roller coaster ride of a life with severe, unremitting mood swings.
Posted by Dinah on Saturday, March 28, 2015