Confession: One of my favorite things to do is to hear other women tell their stories. I was recently privileged to do so through a new book entitled Out of the Shadows: My Journey with Complex Mental Illness.
In Out of the Shadows, Kathy Beachy tells the story of her lifelong struggle with schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Starting in early childhood, she chronicles her battle with the “shadows” of non-reality, strong urges, unexplained mental blocks, extreme perfectionism, and controlling voices.
Kathy is a conservative Mennonite woman who grew up in the Beachy church, in the days before Internet research, self-diagnosing, and problem-solving were on the table. Her parents found their way through bewilderment and frustration to link Kathy with the resources and medications she needed, and the professionals who could help.
Her voice in the telling is simple, with concrete terms and bite-sized thoughts. I deeply appreciate that she was allowed to tell the story herself, with help from friends (particularly coauthor Gertrude Slabach). There are occasional footnotes of clarification by others, either explaining the complexities of Kathy’s feelings, or fleshing out cultural references that might not be clear to the reader. There is also a note from her psychiatrist at the end.
The sense I get of the book as a whole is of Kathy walking her own path, telling her own tale, while gently surrounded by supports and watchful caregivers. They are present with her in the story, coaching, minding the dangers, bridging the gaps, and helping to create a package that is accessible, meaningful, and balanced.
Interspersed throughout the book, on every left-hand page, are beautiful nature photographs. One of Kathy’s hobbies and informal therapies is photography! You will see flowers, birds, sunsets, animals… very clear, lovely images, well done.
Out of the Shadows is not a light book. Though its terms are simple and its stories discreet, its impact is complex and difficult. Truly a look inside a struggling mind.
However, there is a lot of light included, in the finding of help and wholeness. There is forgiveness for strained relationships, clear boundary setting, spiritual insights, and physical and mental helps. Her story offers hope without pretending that everything is fixed, or that one recommendation will fit all persons who face similar issues. I recommend it for people who are struggling with mental obsessions, people who are walking with and loving others struggling with mental obsessions, and young adults (or older) who are interested in hearing an inside perspective on mental illness.
Out of the Shadows: My Journey with Complex Mental Illness is published by Mastof, and available both there and on Amazon. I was given a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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