book reviews · Bookish · mental health · Uncategorized

Start by Graham Morgan (Review)

Today, I am on the Love Groups Tour for Start by Graham Morgan, available now in both Kindle and Paperback editions. This is a non-fiction read about Mental Health, so I’m really pleased to have been given the opportunity to share this with you. Having poor mental health myself, I leapt at the chance to be a part of this tour.

Start by Graham Morgan is compelling read. It’s honest and brave but it doesn’t beg for sympathy or attention. You’ll be taken through a spectrum of feelings as Graham discusses his current life, his past and his journey with his mental health.

Life is messy as it is, life is extra messy when you’ve got mental illness in the mix and Graham does an excellent job at portraying this. Sometimes it’ll make you laugh and sometimes it will absolutely wrench at your heart. At one point, he talks about how some people are also suffering, and how it is horrific and unacceptable and why are we so suspicious of medication that helps?  “..so glazed and consumed that they cannot muster the energy to step foot outside the door, so lacking in confidence that they are unable to take the decision to make a cup of tea, then I think, ‘this is horrific’.” this in particular really hit me, because it resonates so strongly with myself; I felt awful for the people he was talking about, but at the same time, realised I was one of them, I just didn’t recognise it a lot of the time and then I realised Graham does this himself at points through the book too. It made me feel a little vulnerable but also I felt like I got some additional insight to myself, if that makes sense.

What is the “self”? What is “reality” and “truth”? What is “mental illness”? These questions spring to mind when Graham talks about how he is sick, but also, he talks about an “evil” inside of him and how he wants to keep it there and not spread it to others or unleash it on the world. He talks about talking about this to the people who would decide that he needs to remain detained. He talks about life, relationships, how mental illness can effect them, cause havoc and mayhem and how his life was effected all interwoven with being compelled to receive treatment for his struggles.

Graham puts an emphasis on the people around him, other people in his life and how he affects them – or thinks he affects them. It’s very personal and intimate but he is also very candid about his tale which is something I found quite comforting in itself. Mental illness can make you feel so alone; even in a room full of people – even those you love dearly, you can feel more alone than you could ever imagine and I found this book to be an excellent companion during that time.

Alongside all the struggles of life, Graham also talks about some of the absolute glories of life. Some things that many people don’t think about or take for granted. Every day things that are absolutely blissful. “It is lovely to be caught unawares by cliches and to feel that joy with which they can inspire you.” Reading a book and listening to the rain. The less extraordinary things of daily life can in fact be extraordinary if you just notice them and appreciate them.

I feel like I both understand Graham more, myself and other people with mental health struggles. It’s that extra perspective and insight. Mental illness is hard to accept, it’s another thing Graham talks about (alongside basically anything you may be wondering, I found), how basically it means accepting your reality is not quite true and these other people are right, that you are wrong, and how that is a horrible feeling. This really struck me as I found it the hardest struggle for myself when I first sought treatment for my poor mental health and I know it’s a common difficulty. The fear. The accepting that there is something wrong and that you’re not okay.

The book ends on the note that he is lucky for what he has and how so many people don’t have the support system that he has and that he would like that to change. Above everything, his concern for others shines through the darkness of his own struggles and to me that’s commendable but also inspiring.

This book is a must-read. It’s inspiring, it’ll make you giggle, it’ll make you wince and it will make you appreciate things you didn’t previously pay much mind to.

About the Book

Graham Morgan has an MBE for services to mental health, and helped to write the Scottish Mental Health (2003) Care and Treatment Act. This is the Act under which he is now detained.

Graham’s story addresses key issues around mental illness, a topic which is very much in the public sphere at the moment. However, it addresses mental illness from a perspective that is not heard frequently: that of those whose illness is so severe that they are subject to the Mental Health Act.

Graham’s is a positive story rooted in the natural world that Graham values greatly, which shows that, even with considerable barriers, people can work and lead responsible and independent lives; albeit with support from friends and mental health professionals. Graham does not gloss over or glamorise mental illness, instead he tries to show, despite the devastating impact mental illness can have both on those with the illness and those that are close to them, that people can live full and positive lives. A final chapter, bringing the reader up to date some years after Graham has been detained again, shows him living a fulfilling and productive life with his new family, coping with the symptoms that he still struggles to accept are an illness, and preparing to address the United Nations later in the year in his new role working with the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.

About the Author

Graham was born in 1963 in York. He went to university as an angst- ridden student and was quickly admitted to one of the old mental asylums, prompting the work he has done for most of his life: helping people with mental illness speak up about their lives and their rights. He has mainly worked in Scotland, where he has lived for the last thirty years, twenty of them in the Highlands. In the course of this work he has been awarded an MBE, made Joint Service User Contributor of the Year by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and, lately, has spoken at the UN about his and other peoples’ experiences of detention. He has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and has been compulsorily treated under a CTO for the last ten years. He currently lives in Argyll with his partner and her young twins. Start is his first book.

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