Monday, November 28, 2011

Agnes's Jacket

In nineteenth century Germany a madwoman stitched her diary into a jacket, thus uttering her true feelings. What painstaking labour to sew her soul onto a piece of garment! To wear it like a skin, like an enormous tattoo. Even across a century and a half her strength of character cries out to me!
In her book Agnes’s Jacket Gail Hornstein uses her story as a symbol to rehabilitate the mental patient as a person.
I find this extremely moving. I have seen mental illness from close by, and I have always been struck by how the true nature of the patient is inescapably there under the psychosis: the gentleness, the ambition, and the traits that make him lovable in spite of all the misery. Hornstein’s book goes beyond that.
It is not written by a lay person like me, with a psychiatric family member. She is an expert with enormous empathy and the courage to view psychiatry from a patient’s perspective.
For me it opens wide vistas of imagination.
For patients I hope it will eventually lead to a different approach to mental illness.

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