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Mental Disorders

by Jane Wanklin
Mosaic Press, 1997
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Aug 18th 1998

Let Me Make It Good Let Me Make It Good is to my knowledge the only first-person account of borderline personality disorder in or out of print. While estimates of the prevalence of BPD are put at about 2%, or maybe 5 million Americans, it doesn't get written about by those with the disorder. This is in contrast to depression, manic depression, obsessive compulsive behavior, schizophrenia and even autism. Why this should be is a mystery to me, since it is no more 'severe' an illness than these other illnesses. Indeed, people with BPD are often diagnosed with other disorders at the same time. It might also be that many of the people who have written accounts of their depression, schizophrenia could be diagnosed with BPD. But this is the only autobiographical chronicle by a person who considers her primary diagnosis to be borderline personality disorder.

 It feels odd writing a review of a book written by a person telling the story of her life, when her life has been full of hospitalizations, self-destructive behavior and fraught relationships, and there's a reasonable chance that she will read my review. Wanklin is not, or was not previously, a professional author. The book reads rather like someone's diary, and, like diaries, there is sometimes a lack of proportion; some parts of her life are described in great detail while others are missed out altogether. There are an extraordinary number of typographical errors, and there is no list of chapters at the start of the book. But focusing on those aspects may not be very useful. It has been published by a small Canadian press who maybe can't afford to pay a professional copy editor. Suffice to say, the book could be improved by some good editing.

 In Wanklin's tale, we learn about her childhood in Halifax, Nova Scotia and London, Ontario, with some early warning signs that something was seriously wrong. Her life gets worse as she starts seriously abusing drugs and in university in Toronto things go even more seriously wrong. She goes in and out of hospital, going through a variety of different diagnoses and treatments, with little apparent benefit. She suffers enormously, but eventually gets her life together and by the end of the book she says that she has put it all behind her.

 What is valuable about a book like this is that it gives a wealth of detail. BPD is a condition that is hard to understand. This is partly because there is little professional agreement about the nature of the disorder or even its defining characteristics. It may also because it is hard to explain unusual psychological states, and many mental illnesses are very alien to normal ways of thinking. But it is also because there is something about the condition itself that is particular hard to convey -- something fragmentary that defies any coherent description. At least, that's what some theorists have suggested. Maybe no amount of description will explain everything about what it is like to have BPD, but Wanklin's book certainly helps to make it a bit clearer. For people like myself, who have not talked extensively with people with BPD and yet who are puzzled by the disorder, this is extremely useful.