When Pain Has Stained a Peaceful Heart, by Ann Henry ISBN 9781478766957
Four out of five stars
I have relatives that have been in mental institutions as patients and one that was a nurse and worked for a time in a mental hospital. When I was full-time at a local college with a nursing program I was friends with one of the nursing instructors whose specialty was psychiatric nursing. She used to discuss some of her experiences in dealing with mental patients and how difficult it can be. A major concern is their unpredictability, some can become violent in an instant and be a danger, most often to themselves rather than others.
Therefore, given this background, I must confess that I read this book with a skeptical mind. The author uses prose to describe her experiences in a mental hospital and how she was forcibly held down while she received injections of her medications. Henry also mentions that she refused to take her meds and that she punched one of the hospital staff.
I certainly understand that all is not sweet and light in mental hospitals and that abuse of the patients occurs. Her account of the events may be true and the staff was rougher with her than they should have been. Yet, it is also very possible that she was a problem patient and the amount of force that was used was not out of bounds. This book must be read with both of these ideas firmly in mind.
The text has a solid rhythm and tells a sad story of triumph, from the sudden descent into a loss of sanity (her words) to a slow recovery over the course of fifteen years. Her experiences of being forcibly restrained and drugged and her battles to regain control are both wrenching and revealing. Fortunately, it seems clear that Henry has recovered, as there is an order and structure to her writings about her experiences. Many people that suffer from such illnesses never recover to the point where they can write about their experiences in a quality manner.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.