Thursday, May 31, 2018

Book Review: Because I Come from a Crazy Family: The Making of a Psychiatrist by Edward M. Hallowell

When I first ran across this book, I saw he'd also written Driven to Distraction, and I asked my husband, and yep, we have a copy of that on his bookcases somewhere. It's interesting to hear what background brings someone to psychiatry, to be sure, but even more so when it's someone famous.

In his adult life, Dr. Halloweell brought ADD and ADHD into the public awareness, wrote a half a dozen bestselling books, and has been on probably hundreds of TV shows talking about these issues. But he got interested in all of this because, as he says, he himself came from a crazy family.

And it's true. There was a lot of instability in his immediate family. Luckily, he had a strong and robust support system in more extended family, but they couldn't help as much when he moved away. He jokes about how his family has the usual WASP problems of drinking and mental health issues and an unwillingness to deal with any of these problems. His step-father was pretty awful, and after all of the uncertainty, abuse, and alcoholism in his life, as an adult, he wanted to help people like his own father, who lived in a mental hospital for years. (In fact he was conceived one day when his father escaped from the hospital. It was a pretty harrowing description.)

The read felt a little old-school, more in the vein of telling me about his childhood, rather than showing. It was still fascinating, but keeps the reader at arm's length, and never allows you to fully be immersed in the story. But it is a great example of resilience, and how some people just have that trait naturally and can get through horrible experiences relatively unscathed.

This book is published by Bloomsbury USA, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

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