Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

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“The beast is a projector too, every day throwing up before me pictures of what I’m incapable of.”

This novel made me catch my breath. Every reader experiences a story differently, especially when the fiction is close to realities they have lived or witnessed. Anyone having dealt with mental health issues will feel a deeper pain for the characters- every single one of them. Every person in the novel has a pain that is rightfully their own. Such pain doesn’t require permission, it is like another family member. It all begins with a choice Margaret makes to marry John knowing that something is wrong with him. When the children come along Margaret has to deal with a balance that seems to weigh far more heavily on her side and there are signs their son Michael is different though brilliant. It isn’t long before things crumble. As the children grow up, they both love their father and resent his illness. The struggle between the shame and guilt they feel is written beautifully. “I can see in his eyes how hard he’s trying not to pity me. This is what I do to them. Over and over.” My heart broke so much, and I am reminded of how little we really do to help those who have mental disabilities. It isn’t a feel good novel where some cure or solution appears and suddenly everyone is happy and functional. This is a raw look at one family moving forward and coping the best they can, trying their hardest to support their husband, son, brother. But this story took a big bite out of my heart. It’s a brave fight for anyone dealing with mental illness themselves or their loved ones. It is depressing and it doesn’t have to be this way- this is a tragic tale. There are people that are finding great treatment and support, and those who aren’t should be and deserve it. But this story is heavy and isn’t positive, but some stories do end in tragedy.
If anything, I think this sheds light on just how much families need support as much as the person suffering through their illness (mental or otherwise). We all need someone to lean on, we can’t always just be a rock. There is still a big stigma on mental illness regardless of what people lead you to believe. Much of the ignorance is fear based , and there is so much more that needs to be done because everyone deserves a fruitful life. We really should explore the human mind more.
A very painful story but the insight is gorgeous. Michael humored me through his musings.  You can’t just ‘snap out of it’ like a passing mood. It’s deeper than that. Parents want so much to see their child thrive, and in this case it’s enough sometimes to know your child got up, got dressed and made it through a day. It’s crazy to think this is the best that some of us can hope for. Small victories can mean more than winning the lottery in families that want nothing more than to see their loved one freed from the beast of depression. The siblings have to grow up so much faster, and you certainly see how Celia and Alec take on parenting responsibilities in a sense for their older brother Michael. It is crushingly beautiful, and rather than just putting a smile on it the reader sees how this condition effects each child and passes from father to son. And the wife, the burned out wife. Thank God for Love. We can only do the best we can, all of us.

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