The Naked Bird Watcher

Book Cover - The Naked BirdwatcherBy Suzy Johnston.
Chipmunka Publishing
ISBN 0954221834

This book is the sixth in a series that aims to “reduce stigma and discrimination on mental health issues”. I hesitated to pick up and read this book because, I think with hindsight, it was too close to experiences of my own. But I read it in one gulp and found it genuine, familiar, valuable, hectic, rambling and moving – it deals with the minutiae of disintegration.

After a Scottish childhood interrupted by a mystery virus which led to seven months in bed and three more years’ recovery, Suzy Johnston, started to become episodically depressed at 17 and was eventually diagnosed “manic depressive” (bipolar) while at St Andrew’s University.

Her book scrupulously follows 11 years of her life with a severe illness – her phenomenally supportive family, her good and bad friends, her sport, her band, hospital admissions, horrific reactions to dangerously strong medication, her triumph at keeping a life together and getting her degree, and her minute-by-minute mood changes.

This is a book which will prove extremely useful to professionals, carers, system users, and, I hope, to the author herself. Writing about one’s own experiences as a means of therapy deserves wider acknowledgement as a potent non-chemical aid to recovery.

Polly Mortimer is a journalist and librarian and former editor of Pendulum.

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