Don’t Mind Me Book Reviews
Don’t Mind Me by Judith Haire
‘Not a misery memoir but a story of courage and hope’
Dorothy Rowe, Clinical Psychologist and Writer
Don’t Mind Me by Judith Haire is a memoir about the deep descent into psychosis and the long struggle to find mental health in the aftermath. It is one woman’s true story of finding herself at the bottom of a well of insanity, with nothing but her own wits to get her to surface to sanity.
Ms. Haire describes a history of generations of hostile family relationships, including those of her grandparents. Then, she delves into the unsatisfying marriage of her parents, which made her feel unwanted. Her father’s moods alternated from violent to withdrawn, while her mother distanced herself from emotional commitment toward her child. Ms. Haire’s painful childhood left her bereft of the nurturing children require to grow to healthy adults. As is often the case, she repeats the patterns of helplessness and hopelessness by marrying a man who used and abused her. She described herself as “mentally destroyed.” Having no support, Ms. Haire became vulnerable to a psychotic break.
In Don’t Mind Me, Judith Haire describes the hell of psychological torment: “I imagined there was a nuclear war going on around me, I imagined my house would explode the next time I opened the front door.” How could she live a healthy life under that kind of mental pressure? The reader is taken on a journey of hallucinations that leads Ms. Haire to be as helpless as an infant in the “fetal position.”
Ms. Haire’s treatment appeared to lack compassion; she was often ignored, under-medicated, over-medicated, misunderstood, and isolated. It seemed to be the commitment of the patient herself that moved her mind through psychosis. Step by step she took on challenges that lead to a healthy life with a fulfilling relationship. She’s firm in her belief that even an unborn child can take on the stressors of the parents. This theory helps Ms. Haire to have compassion for herself.
Judith Haire says she found catharsis in writing Don’t Mind Me. She offers resources for mental health clinicians and patients alike. Most importantly, she shares a personal story that helps to reduce the stigma of mental illness by increasing the understanding society needs to protect vulnerable citizens.
Lynn C Tolson
Don’t Mind Me is testament to one woman’s courageous battle to overcome mental breakdown and domestic violence and claim her happiness. An inspiration for anyone wanting to understand the issues and possible roots of mental illness
Julie Aldridge, State Registered Art Therapist
This is a unique account of Judith’s personal battle with mental health issues. As a psychologist I found the book extremely useful as a teaching tool for students trying to understand mental illness. It is also an inspiring read on an individual’s capacity to survive and thrive.
This moving account of a bright and talented girl who is struck down by the sudden onset of mental illness in her 30s is sometimes brutal and always compelling. Judith explores her own perspectives and those of her family and friends honestly, in detail and with deep feeling. Her determination to win through against all odds and to find the happiness and fulfillment she has now achieved is awe-inspiring
An extraordinary memoir, uncompromising and brutally honest yet full of hope and dignity. Very powerful, very compelling, beautifully written and with a contagious sense of courage, grace and determination – I was deeply moved by it. Judith Haire’s beautiful book will be an invaluable resource not only for aspiring mental health professionals and those who experience mental distress, but to all of us who wish to seek and understand a true recounting of human potential.
Judith Haire’s autobiography, published by mental health publishing specialists Chipmunkapublsihing, is a brief but moving account of one woman’s traumatic childhood, her horrifically abusive first marriage and experience of rape, and her descent into psychosis.
This book is positive and inspiring despite the difficult subject areas it covers, and Haire’s focus is very much on recovery and survival. It is this focus that makes it of so much relevance to practising clinicians and students who may see repeated episodes of psychosis as an intractable illness – certainly not something that one can recover from.
Furthermore, her account of psychosis – in particular, her experience of hallucinations, medication and side effects, and the manner in which staff’s attitudes impacted upon her mental state – is striking. Haire’s depiction of her terrifying experiences inform the reader about far more about how it feels to experience such episodes than can ever be available in a clinical textbook.
Furthermore, the reader can sense the catharsis that came through writing this book, which Haire acknowledges – a testimony to the value of creative writing if ever there was one.
University of Nottingham
Madness and Literature Network
This is a compelling Memoir of one woman’s journey through life’s difficulties. Judith offers a touching and honest account of her struggle with her own emotional turbulence from childhood. She captures the pain and suffering experienced from her father’s abusive relationship towards her, whilst displaying how we, as humans, revert back to old patterns of behavior learnt in childhood by discussing her relationship with her first husband.
She describes her difficulties which lead to her psychotic experience in her 30’s, her recollection of being sectioned and her encounters with E.C.T. She discusses how psychoses debilitated her, reflects on the treatment which she received and how she continues her journey through life, displaying the sheer inner strength and determination which if read can be of inspiration to others.
She talks not only of her sadness but also of her achievements whilst recognizing humor to be a valuable source of recovery and how recovery is a slow, painful yet liberating experience for those dare turn and face their difficulties.
What I would hope comes from this is for professionals and non-professionals alike to realize that Mental deterioration is not something that one suffers when life is harmonious and instead rears it head when life becomes fraught with difficulties.
Victoria DIPHE MH Nursing
‘This is clearly a most useful first person account of psychosis’
Professor Chris Frith, Institute of Neurology, University College, London
The stigma of mental ill health is an on-going problem in the UK (as it is all over the world) which makes Don’t Mind Me a very brave book indeed. Judith Haire writes candidly and openly about her experiences of a dysfunctional childhood and subsequent abusive marriage and how this led to episodes of psychosis and mental distress. Even by those working within the mental health field, psychosis is often misunderstood and feared. People who suffer from any form of psychosis can feel particularly isolated because of this. Judith Haire has taken the very brave step of describing in a very honest way what she experienced and how it affected not only her own life, but the lives of her family and friends. Judith’s journey is inspirational. Told with warmth, humour and wit as well as searing honesty, you will not regret reading about her amazing life.
Don’t Mind Me is a detailed account of one woman’s passage through childhood neglect, her experience of routinely bearing witness to her tortured mother and her raging father. It details her ensuing tumble into domestic abuse, financial insecurity and sexual infidelity. Most importantly she describes her experiences in the throes of debilitating waves of psychosis – with the author eventually emerging scathed by side-effects and stigma. The texts spawns an interesting discussion of the impact of environmental stressors on the onset and progress ion of psychotic illness.
The pinnacle of this memoir is her “psychotic experience”. The selections of preceding incidents in childhood act as primers, with the later text representing resolution which is tainted with the real possibility of relapse. Haire documents well the insidious approach of her psychosis. She provides us with insight into the early workings of a mind journeying into psychotic break-down. Loss of appetite, boundless energy couped with lack of sleep and inappropriate emotional reactions, ranging from heightening fear progrsssing through to paranoia function as indicators to the clinical student. Haire further offers colourful details of overwhelming auditory and visual hallucinations. The resultant abrupt detriment and immense loss of confidence holds in stark contrast with the initial build up to psychosis, which adds further emotional impact to the account.
The latter part of the text illustrates recovery from psychosis and generates interesting clinical points for medical trainees and professionals alike. The author’s meticulous attention to the recollection of minor clinical details indicates the crucial role appropriate and empathic professional behaviour plays in patient recovery; ‘The surgeon said ‘well done’ to me…’ Conversely, the consequences of inadequately informing patients – ‘If only I had been warned of the possibility; perhaps I could have made different choices’ may be regarded by some readers as particularly poignant reminders of the extent of influence health professionals hold over a patient’s healthcare options.
Altogether a recommended text; certainly as a support manual for patients identifying with issues of abuse and mental illness and secondly for medical trainees desiring further understanding of psychiatric symptoms, associated life implication, and the role of health professionals.
Fizzah Ali, Fifith Year Medical Student, University of Birmingham Medical School, for the Institute of Psychiatry Student Newsletter
I found this a very moving, honest and realistic account of Judith’s life. I found the style of writing easy to read and the pace of the book was good, in fact, once I started, I had to contiue reading until I reached the end. It was un-put-downable…..:). Thank you for offering this to the world Judith and for your unquenchable spirit in life.
I take my hat off to Judith Haire for being so brave and putting pen to paper to write her book Don’t Mind Me published by Chipmunkapublishing
In fact it must have taken a lot of guts and a huge amount of honesty for Judith tell her, at times, heartbreaking story.
This is the story of an amazing woman who has survived a traumatic life. One that would have finished many of us! But she proves that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Judith’s book is a must read. Not just for mental health professionals but anyone going through a similar situation. It will also help the family and friends of loved ones who may be going through it too.
I totally concur with Dorothy Rowe, Clinical Psychologist and Writer, who said of Don’t Mind Me:
‘Not a misery memoir but a story of courage and hope’
…Don’t Mind Me is written by a survivor in two senses of the word – of the mental health system and of life itself.
The book takes us through the major events of Judith Haire’s life and introduces her relationships, some of which, particularly those with key male figures, are difficult. She describes extreme incidences of abuse, including rape, emotional abuse and gross physical violence. Yet Judith describes uplifting and helpful relationships and events, striking a balance between ups and downs, positives and negatives, stress and caring. I was struck by the rawness of the text and felt at first that some descriptions of other people were so subjective as to be questionable. However, the book does not claim to be objective, it is simply an honest personal account. As a mental health professional, I am used to looking at things from all sides and I found myself wanting to know more about the sub-characters, to hear more of their voice. But I was missing the point, which is that it is Judith talking about her emergence from trauma and psychosis, and how she saw other people through the frame of her experience. Once I realised this I was able to truly engage with her story – I r
ead the book in two sittings and found it well worth the effort. Which brings me to the publisher. Its ethos stems from a belief that mental health survivors have a unique take on the world. I have had clients, now and in the past, who would have related and found comfort in Judith’s book. I am sure you will find the same.
Geoff Brennan is nurse consultant -psychosocial interventions at Prospect Park Hospital
Mental Health Practice Magazine September 2009
As I struggle to make sense of (make sensible inferences from) the data, I hope to find that my previous body of knowledge and misinformation gets disturbed and enriched” (Wengraf 2000, p.11).
James Wood (2008, p.56) asks “Is specificity in itself satisfying?” in his study of Don Scotus’ ideas of ‘thisness’ or haecceitas, in authorship; he believes it is. Thisness is all through Judith Haire’s harrowing account. With her matter-of-fact opening sentence lacking the expected exclamation mark (‘The phone rang and I screamed.’), Haire opens up a narrative that is both compelling and horrifying.
Even bearing in mind the caveat of ‘reductionism’ in ‘autobiographical texts’ (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p.142), we find ourselves quickly and effortlessly taken into young Judith’s nightmare world, where she is a trapped witness to her parents’ loveless and violent marriage; and we find ourselves driven to read page after page, as her life unfolds with almost predictable results.
Although her narrative exudes thisness, her reality, on almost every page, she does glance at the supernatural world once (‘Just recently for no reason at all the framed photo of their headstone fell off my bookshelf’, p.18), but this merely acts to further illuminate her humanity, and so enhances the believabilityof her story.
Over all, this is a story of hope that celebrates a survivor, and also holds lessons for practitioners. It is not hedged about with apologies but paints a picture of a difficult life clearly and naturally (Strunk & White, 2000, p.70), avoiding jargon and ‘fancy words’ (Ibid., p.76).
Haire is clear when her care has fallen below par at times, and also clear when it has been beneficial. As such, I would not hesitate to recommend this book to mental health care professionals as well as to fellow sufferers, relatives and carers, and hope that practises benefit and stigma reduce as a result.
‘Over all, this is a story of hope that celebrates a survivor, and also holds lessons for practitioners.”
Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Judith Haire has been to hell and back
if you are stuck in your own private hell
read this book for inspiration
struggle on, find your way through
if Judith can do it, so can you
so can i!!! we will survive!
I have recently finished reading Judith Haire’s book “Don’t Mind Me” and I found it compelling if sometimes disturbing reading. The accounts of her poor treatment mainly by her father and partly her mother in her early years were especially harrowing and it is understandable to me that this scenario would lead to further abusive behaviour mainly by her husband Clinton in later years.
It struck me very strongly that Judith managed mostly to separate her domestic troubles from her school/college/work scenarios, mostly succeeding in all these external spheres of her life despite or perhaps because of the hellish nature of her domestic life, until it all became too much later on and even broke out into her outer world of work etc. when the psychosis reached critical point under such pressure.
She makes little mention of more purely non-practical what I would call “escapist” activities that could have perhaps helped release some of the extreme pressures that she was under. Mention was made of walking and swimming as being of some help, but with no great enthusiasm.
I was intrigued by her description of her major psychotic breakdown, the hallucinations and feelings that she had, especially the episode when she felt “out of phase”, as I would describe it, the feeling of being out of your body and not being able to prove to yourself that you are having any tangible effect on the physical world.
All in all I think Judith has valiantly tackled a very difficult subject and helped to give a voice to the usually misunderstood 1 in 4 of us.
Judith Haire is a highly educated woman with a challenging career. Don’t mind me is a short, very personal book describing her acute psychotic breakdown, attributed to a dysfunctional childhood and abusive
Haire’s early feeling of being an outsider moved me. I was mesmerised as she told how
she began to experience in adulthood the violence and abuse she had been subject to as a child. For onlookers this pattern of repetition is hard to understand, but by simply recounting
it, Haire lets us see how it happens. She marries her husband out of ‘a false sense of duty and fear’; she stays with this shockingly abusive man out of ‘an enormous sense of responsibility’ and a need to ‘see things through’, conditioned in her as a child.
Haire describes her encounters with various psychological services. She found psychiatry ‘remote and uncaring’. The day hospital reinforced the notion that she was ill; a day
centre was similarly unsatisfactory.
Some medication was helpful, but she did not have enough information about the best treatments and side effects. Electroconvulsive therapy she found ‘did work’. On developing
obsessive compulsive disorder, she received cognitive behaviour therapy, a ‘sticking plaster technique’ enabling her to acknowledge painful experiences without talking about them. For two years she attended two weekly sessions,
which ‘really helped [to] overcome my
fears’. ‘The techniques I learned were
useful and have stayed in my mind’.
At one point she enters psychotherapy for alcohol problems, and there she enjoys dream work and painting. A therapist becomes a ‘lifeline’ and recommends books that give her
insight into her relationships. As a first-hand account of severe mental illness Don’t mind me will be valuable to all who deal with such
problems and experience them. An
appendix provides useful information
about self-help resources.
Person centred counsellor and former
community psychiatric nurse
This review was published in the October 2009 issue of HCPJ (Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal), published by BACP.
Read more reviews at http://www.chipmunkapublishing.co.uk