In Mark Vonnegut’s new memoir, “Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So,” the writer, former psychiatric patient and pediatrician ruminates on his four psychotic breaks and what followed. And although his struggle with bipolar disease and schizophrenia is memoir-worthy enough as it is, Vonnegut’s story has the added selling point that he happens to be the son of famed novelist Kurt Vonnegut.
But in “Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So,” the main focus is on Vonnegut’s battle with trying to stay sane. “It seemed to me that by writing about it, it was a way to put it in perspective. That if I could remember and tell the truth about it, it would help me get better,” he says.
Although Vonnegut grew up to be a successful pediatrician and focused his studies in the sciences, he — as well as the prose in “Just Like Someone” — benefits from being cultivated in such an artistic family.
“I just noticed that with my own family, it’s the people who create stuff that’s often the key to having a good life.”
And as his memoir points out, he did have a good life in spite of having a mental illness; in fact, he says the burden could even be considered a gift.
“It really is a key thing about being human. If we’re going to survive as people, we need to understand what we are and who we are — and one of the things we are is vulnerable to mental illness.” He adds: “It’s certainly not something you ask for, but it has been a great teacher and it has helped me grow a lot.”