The Real Madness of Mental Illness

Harvard freshman Stephen Hinshaw was back home in Columbus, Ohio for spring break. His father, prominent Ohio State philosopher Virgil Hinshaw Jr., called him into his study for a talk. Within minutes, the son’s life changed forever.

For Stephen, the ensuing talks with his father answered questions he had kept buried for a lifetime. Why did Dad disappear all those times? Where did he go?

In Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness Stephen Hinshaw brilliantly shares his family’s story.

Now an eminent psychology professor at UC Berkeley, the author relates his father’s story. He tells how his family’s silence left its marks that he sees in himself every day.

Where did his dad go all those times? To various institutions for what was diagnosed at the time as schizophrenia. The treatments were extreme and included electric shock therapy.

Why did his father have to go away? His highs and lows were so extreme that he was unable to function in his job, in his family. Later came the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, or manic depression.

Stephen Hinshaw describes how ending the silence and stigma attached to mental illness can heal and even prevent scars in patients and their families. The book will help some readers recognize scars in themselves.

Another Kind of Madness envisions a world in which stigma is no longer attached to any condition of human life.

You Can Make Anxiety Your Friend

If you are worried that you don’t know how to deal with anxiety, Sarah Rayner may be the just the person who can help.

Making Friends With Anxiety may seem like a terrible title if anxiety threatens your peace of mind, follows you everywhere, and ruins what should be the best of times. So, if making anxiety your enemy makes it worse, what should you do?

Rayner uses the gentle approach of a friend who understands. She describes how-to exercises and tips about life, including diet, breathing, and handling criticism. She breaks down medications, how to approach your doctor, the kinds of anxiety, and much more.

The author knows from experience. At one point, she admitted herself to a clinic to get help. Her struggle is real. Her words are genuine.

She helped me understand that my body sets off adrenaline and other stress hormones as a signal that something is wrong. It showed me it is harmful to come down hard on myself when I can’t necessarily stop the physical symptoms.

She makes it clear anxiety can be a difficult friend to live with. But Making Friends With Anxiety is full of support and hope.

As a companion book, have you read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz? Click the title to see my brief discussion about one of the greatest books related to mental well-being.

My best wishes.

A Himalayan Journey Born as a Dream

Living in her native India, Susan Jagannath fell in love at first sight. She was just 16. But she would have to wait until she was in her 60s to realize her dream, a closeup view of the object of her affection.

In Chasing Himalayan Dreams, Jagannath describes her journey on the Singalila Ridge Trek along the Nepal-India border to Sandakphu, where she gazes across 30 miles of blue sky to Kanchenjunga, the sacred mountain. On the 38-mile guided walk, she travels through villages, soaking up local culture.

The peak she first glimpsed at 16 is not just any mountain. Billed as the world’s tallest until 1852, Kanchenjunga elevation is 28,169 feet. It resides among four of the tallest peaks, including Mt. Everest. And Kanchenjunga has never been summited. By tradition and out of respect for its sacred designation, climbers stop short of its tallest point.

Her book is a quick, easy page-turner. I celebrated when the author, who lives in Australia, climbed to the viewpoint at Sandakphu, at an altitude of 12,100 feet. I had my fingers crossed that clouds would not stand between her and her mountain. If they had, I think Susan Jagannath would not have quit her dream to get a clear look at her first love.

UCSB: What Is a University?

A former roommate’s note sent me back to my UCSB La Cumbre yearbook, where I rediscovered my published essay next to a photograph of me at 20 years old.

Would these words resonate in 2021?

Ideally the University is an institution of higher learning, a place where students expand their horizons into the realms of discipline and intellectualism. To reach this peak, it requires listening attentively to lectures, cramming books into your mind and getting rid of emotion that might make you identifiable with ordinary people.

The University carries on the American capitalistic tradition of instilling the sense of competition in all its subjects in order that the country reach new highs in technological advancement. But what is all this worth in a world filled with hate, fear and hunger?

In my view, the University is an extremely valuable part of our world, but not in these ways. It is a place where we can learn to understand people, not only the type we identify with or like, but also people we might otherwise condemn.

We study different cultures, political systems and individuals and through this we gain an understanding of the world in its present state. This is the basis for revision–we cannot bring about effective change without understanding what we want to change.

But perhaps the most valuable part of life in the University is the constant contact with people and the opportunity for involvement in a variety of experiences. This is the University–a place where books and classes play a secondary role to people meeting and enjoying each other.

My generation, which came of age during the tumultuous late 1960s, vowed to change the world. How did we do?