Life Inside: A Memoir

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Atria Books, 2002 - Biography & Autobiography - 357 pages
In 1967, Mindy Lewis was a rebellious fifteen-year-old, afflicted by acute shyness, nascent creative yearnings, and a growing distrust of authority. When Mindy started cutting school and taking drugs, her mother turned to the psychiatric profession for help. Remanded by the court to state custody, Mindy was sent to a renowned state psychiatric hospital, where she would remain until she turned eighteen. A richly textured exploration of life on a psychiatric ward, Lewis's memoir probes our culture's perceptions of the lines that separate craziness and creativity, power and powerlessness, self-destruction and healthy self-expression, clinical diagnosis and genuine, lasting healing. The author writes vividly of the community of adolescent and young adult patients (many hospitalized for questionable reasons), the politics and routines of institutional life, the extensive use of medication, and the frightening prevalence of life-altering misdiagnoses. A chilling implication of Mindy's story is that, with a slight shift of circumstances, it might have happened to anyone.

"Life Inside" also charts the author's three decades of post-hospital life, describing the challenge of entering adulthood bearing the stigma of having been labeled mentally ill. Ironically, the same traits that contributed to Lewis's incarceration in the first place -- rebelliousness, the need to create, and love for the life of the mind -- were the very things that steered her onto a path of healthy independence. In rejecting the diagnosis and prescriptions imposed upon her by the psychiatric establishment, the author navigates a course toward reclaiming the other life inside -- the inner life. Inviting us to take aclose look at contemporary views of mental health through the lens of her own powerful and intimately rendered story, Lewis has written an important memoir, as tough and candid as it is inspiring and compassionate.

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User Review  - chrisblocker - LibraryThing

I had many mixed feelings about this book. I'm not much of a reader of "memoirs"; personally, I don't see the point to them. What is a memoir but an autobiography of a person no one knows? And it ... Read full review

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User Review  - porchsitter55 - LibraryThing

A haunting true story of a young teenage girl who was "warehoused" in a psychiatric facility for 2 years, because her behavior was deemed unacceptable by her mother. The book takes the reader through ... Read full review


Life Before

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About the author (2002)

Mindy Lewis has been a practicing painter all her life, but has only recently claimed dual citizenship as visual artist and writer. Her essays have been published in Lilith magazine and in two anthologies, Escaping the Yellow Wallpaper (Haworth Press) and Voices from the Couch (AmErica House).

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