A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness Reviews

A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness

A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness

Dorothy Winans ‘Dede’ Davis had worried, fussed, and obsessed for the last time. Her heart stopped beating in a fit of anxiety, soon after her wobbly legs gave way. In the wake of his mother’s death, Tom Davis knew one thing: Helplessly self-absorbed and severely obsessive compulsive, Dede led a tormented life. She had moved from nursing home to mental institution in recent years, but what really caused her death? The story of a loving family coming to grips with its own fragilities, A Legacy of Madness relays Tom Davis’s journey to uncover, and ultimately understand, the history of mental illness that led generations of his suburban American family to their demise. Investigating his mother’s history led to that of Davis’s grandfather, a top administrator at one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in the country; his great-grandfather who died of self-inflicted gas asphyxiation during the Depression; and his great-great grandmother who, with her eldest son, completed suicide one tragic day. Ultimately, four generations of family members showed clear signs of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and alcoholism–often mistreated illnesses that test one’s ability to cope.
Through this intimate memoir we join Davis on a personal odyssey to ensure that the fifth generation–he and his siblings–recover their family legacy, by not only surviving their own mental health disorders but by getting the help they need to lead healthy, balanced lives. In the end, we witness Davis’s powerful transition as he makes peace with the past and heals through forgiveness and compassion for his family–and himself.

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2 Comments so far »

  1. William R. Borden "wbordenjr" said,

    Wrote on January 18, 2012 @ 1:45 am

    2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Great insights into mental health, October 19, 2011
    By 

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness (Paperback)

    A must-read to help understand mental illness and its devastating impact on families. Davis is a veteran journalist who has emerged as a leading authority in covering mental health issues and has dedicated his blog ([…]) to mental health. Davis writes with great clarity and detail about his mom’s struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder and alcoholism. He delves into his family’s history and the tragedies of how failing mental health has cascaded through prior generations. The author also recognizes his own issues, those of his siblings and the steps taken to protect his children’s mental health.
    If anything, the book encourages those needing help to get it and helps remove some of the stigma that was associated with seeking help and the tragic consequences of not getting help. Culturally, Americans have started to recognize the need to address mental health (health insurance parity laws, DTC advertising for behavioral medications, clinical evidence about the connection between mental and physical health). Davis’ book is an important statement for mental health advocates, patients and families who are struggling to understand how to deal with mental health problems.

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  2. Bradley Fred Dye said,

    Wrote on January 18, 2012 @ 2:11 am

    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Bringing Skeletons Out of the Closet, October 26, 2011
    By 
    Bradley Fred Dye (Fairfield, Illinois) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness (Paperback)

    This is a wonderful book. It should do a lot for taking the shame and embarrassment away from family mental health issues. I had to subtract one star for the book’s organization. I got lost in the family tree at times and felt that the repeating of the same event, over and over, was unnecessary. The author drives the point home about his mother’s continual (obsessive) repeating — so much so that I really felt his pain — but then he too repeats things like telling us that “The Red Badge of Courage” was written by Stephen Crane, the day of his mother’s death, and other details. Sometimes it seems like a collection of articles about the same family. Maybe it is. *IMHO* The sequence of events could have been organized much better.

    But who am I to be saying this about a professional who teaches Journalism in a college? Nobody! These are just my opinions. This is a great book and the author deserves much praise and encouragement.

    “We are only as sick as our secrets.”

    This is indeed a “must read” for anyone troubled by family secrets and thinking that problems will go away if we ignore them.

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