Why would any normal person choose someone with a serious mental illness? We never know where our path in life will lead us. For one woman, her entire life, the people she met, the experiences she endured, made her prepared to accept a challenge most would have run from. A story that brings mental illness into the light.
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Screwballs- Review by: Jaynita Maru (Author Catherine Mardon)
Screwballs is a book about a woman’s experiences with people facing various mental health issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. Throughout her journey in life, Catherine Mardon crossed paths with a lot of personalities. As an attorney, Mardon worked to get disability funding for people to afford correct medication during a time when mental health issues were not acknowledged as real issues and when the AIDS outbreak sent North American societies in a frenzy of misinformed judgement. The combination of the two posed unique new situations for Catherine but she rose to the challenges and overcame them with unwavering determination.
Every chapter in the book introduces a new person in Mardon’s life, and each person had an impact on her in some way or another. She believed that these people were sent to her by God to show her the path of empathy, compassion, and understanding. Mardon managed to focus on their uniqueness regardless of the mental health stigma that was (and still is) prevalent in society.
Ranging from her very own family members such as her father having PTSD and nephew being a chronic alcoholic, to Gregg, her first mentally ill client, Mardon managed to remain calm and find avenues to help these people. She also helped clients that were facing mental health issues pertaining to gender and sexuality.
After a neck injury, Catherine refocused her energy from working on court cases to analyzing transcripts from such cases. While doing so, Mardon met a woman named Arlene who had bipolar disorder. Arlene had a great impact on Catherine as Catherine helped her for nearly twenty years. Mardon realized that in order to truly help a person, that person needs to accept their illness and welcome the help they can receive. Arlene showed Catherine, in a bizarre way, that self-care is important in order to avoid burn-out.
Some of the people Mardon helped recovered successfully, but others eventually completed suicide or died of various causes such as AIDS or intoxication. Nonetheless, Catherine always hoped that whatever helping hand she could give to the shunned, they would in turn be inspired to help someone else who needed it.
Where people would generally shun the mentally ill, Mardon did the opposite and went out of her way to take care of them. The roadblocks she has faced thus far have merely made Catherine stronger as she continues to persevere to help those with various mental illnesses and addictions.
These experiences ultimately prepared her for a new challenge. Austin Mardon, a geographer with a keen interest in historical comets, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1992. Catherine met him knowing his diagnosis and she married him regardless. She was judged by family and friends for marrying someone with schizophrenia but these judgements only made her stronger. In the face of adversity, Catherine rose to multiple challenges and overcame them.
This book is an autobiographical collection of anecdotes based on the challenges Catherine faced throughout her life. The sheer simplicity of her writing allows the reader to automatically empathize with Catherine as her humility shines through every word. A truly engaging read, and an inspiration to many.
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