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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Staying Sane: A Struggle of Survival is a nonfiction coming of age memoir written by Emma Volesky. Emma first experienced hallucinations when she was eight years old. She watched, horrified, as sticks danced around her bed at night, and formless white shapes crawled up the walls. Were they real? She had no way of distinguishing what was real and what was a hallucination. Her aunt had committed suicide before Emma was born, and while she had been diagnosed as having depression at the time, she was also, like Emma, bipolar. Living with mental illness was a continuing struggle for Emma as she was growing up, despite the love and acceptance of her parents and six siblings. There were the mood swings, the intense episodes of hyperactivity and the endless humiliation caused by the inappropriate things she would say at social gatherings. Most of all there was the pain, unending and so unbearable that suicide often seemed to offer the only relief. Emma would be hospitalized on a number of occasions. Sometimes it was necessary to help her survive her need to destroy herself, but other times, it was to adjust the dosages and combinations of the different drugs that kept her mind balanced.
In Staying Sane: A Struggle of Survival, Emma Volesky shares her story of living with mental illness, a condition she didn’t ask for yet she bore the stigma throughout her years in school. While many of us ruefully remember just how cruel kids in school can be to the odd one out, Emma’s experiences were particularly awful, and I could empathize with her desire to run out of class and her growing hatred of the educational process. This was particularly saddening as Emma’s love of reading and scholastic aptitude made her a natural for academic pursuits. Fortunately for us, she’s also a gifted writer who lets us see her world so vividly. It’s not always an easy ride, but, overall, I couldn’t help but feel her strength and determination coming through on every page of this most illuminating and honest memoir about living with mental illness. I’m especially looking forward to reading more works by this talented author. Staying Sane: A Struggle of Survival is most highly recommended.