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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Book review: Rachel Reiland, Get Me Out of Here (2002)

Subtitled 'My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder', this is a rare thing: a first-person account of the experience of living with a mental illness. Reiland - the name is a pseudonym - was perhaps saved as an author by her habit of incessantly diarising her exploits during the process of therapy the book recounts. As a result, there is ample material for the memoirist to work on while recovering the experiences of the patient for the benefit of the reader.

BPD is a nasty illness and Reiland pulls no punches, exposing the abrasive personality traits that it entails in voluminous detail (those diary entries again). Therapy to cure her takes about four years, initially going three times a week but then this frequency tapers off as she improves later on in the piece. The reader is exposed to the relentless emotional swings, the manipulativeness, the tears and the breakdowns involved in living with BPD as Reiland moves slowly from a position of helpless abandon to one of resigned familiarity, and as the ravages of the disease give way to peace of mind.

Reiland's therapist is named Dr. Padgett in the book and he serves her well, soothing and probing by turns as he tries to uncover the family history that lay behind Reiland's illness, the parental issues she had which had caused her to become to uncomfortably unhinged. Reiland in the book watches herself in therapy sessions with Dr. Padgett, showing how she was prone to switch heedlessly between two personality traits (which she herself labels "Vulno"and "Tough Chick") as she negotiates her way through the thickets of signifiers that surround her within the matrix of the debilitating illness.

Reiland is an accountant and a mother of two toddlers when the book opens. Her therapy was initially paid for by her health insurer, but when that money ran out she had to rely on income her husband - also an accountant - could produce. Eventually she herself was able to return to work, and money stopped being such a problem.

The book is quite long and detailed, and so many readers might become exhausted due to the rollercoaster of emotions that it entails. You can't help but sympathise with the author and protagonist as she works her way through some very tough problems. But in the end it's worth it. I found the book both involving and lucid, and am thankful that it gave me some insights into a disease that is relatively unknown among the broader population. I read the book on my Kindle; the image accompanying this post comes from the internet.

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