Falling Out of Love With Madness

(Click to watch video.)

(Click to watch video.)

Emma Forrest’s career as a writer almost predates her adolescence. She’s toured with pop bands, written a column in the Times, published several books including three novels, and dated stars of stage and screen. She’s also struggled with debilitating mental illness. This is how she described her descent into madness in a 2008 Guardian article advising sympathy for Britney Spears:

“I was 22 in 2000, living in New York on contract to this newspaper and about to have my first book hit the shelves … Beginning as writer’s block, [the psychosis] evolved into a profound self-loathing made visible around my studio apartment by a knee-deep mess of newspapers, magazines, books, clothes … It starts to be a psychotic break when one moves from depression to being afraid of opening the refrigerator because the monster that yells, ‘Zool!’ at Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters might be there. But I didn’t see how crazy that was … By the end of 2000, I was self mutilating a few times a week and having four scaldingly hot baths a day, trying to feel something and trying to make the hours pass, like Britney, driving in circles, padding out her days.”

After a serious suicide attempt, Forrest ended up in hospital, where her illness stabilised. Her path back to wellness began following her return to New York, when she began seeing her psychiatrist, whom she refers to as Dr R. In her memoir of the time, Your Voice in My Head, Dr R looms as a large, beneficent presence. In her words, he helped Forrest “fall out of love with madness”. In her memoir, Forrest writes about Dr R’s unexpected death, and having to learn to be happy on her own. Nowadays, Forrest is a screenwriter based in Los Angeles.

Here’s Emma Forrest on Radio National’s Book Show, and here’s a review of Your Voice in My Head in the Guardian and another in The Awl.

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