Thursday, August 8, 2013

My take on: Sharp

"Just as Presley said, I was becoming like many young men who go from a first visit at a mental hospital and then to the fifth and then the tenth and then are suddenly transformed into chronics. That was a significant lesson I learned quickly -- it's excruciatingly hard not to return to a psychiatric ward. Once you've been broken to a certain point -- attempting suicide or cutting or having a breakdown or psychosis, you will probably be admitted again. It's a horrible fact, really, but it's truth."  -- Pg. 193

That's a long passage to begin with, but I felt it was one of the most insightful in Sharp: My Story of Madness, Cutting, and How I Reclaimed My Life by  David Fitzpatrick.

For starters, this book isn't for everyone. After just a couple of chapters I wasn't sure it was for me. Initially, David Fitzpatrick sounded like a typical college student who never grew up. But as I delved deeper and deeper into the book, I realized that wasn't the case. In college, Fitzpatrick was subject to some horrible bullying by his college roommates. It went beyond the typical college hazing. With each instance, I'm screaming internally for Fitzpatrick to stand up for himself. Say something. Say no. Fight back. Don't let people walk all over you. His college roommates weren't the only reason for his descent into mental illness, but they certainly didn't help.

Internally, there is a war going on inside Fitzpatrick's head. He tries therapy. His family thinks he's getting better. He tries to do normal things, like going out with friends, even though he would rather retreat within himself. Somehow cutting becomes the answer. It's a release. It's freeing. His descriptions of cutting and mutilating himself are rather stomach-churning. After a long stint in a hospital, Fitzpatrick just left the grounds on a whim. To the outside world he might have appeared as an overweight and somewhat weird man in his 20s, but who could know about the war going on inside his head. Left to his own devices, he bought a bunch of razors, cut himself from head to toe, and smeared his blood all over the hospital grounds. It's hard to read. It's hard to know that so many people have reached that point. I'm not sure he was trying to kill himself. It was more like he was trying to disappear or not feel the pain. It's hard to disappear when you do something like this, but you can tell he felt like a burden to his family. Mental illness runs in Fitzpatrick's family, but he felt like he was sucking all the attention away from his siblings.

Sometimes you think he's making progress, but he's really just afraid to get better. Afraid to get at the root of the problem. That's why I opened with that quote. I thought it was very perceptive of him. After that last incident, his therapist forced Fitzpatrick to take a hard look at himself. He could become like a lot of mentally ill people, he could find himself in a never-ending cycle of hospitalization. Or he could finally start to feel again, he could finally get to the root of the problem and start living a normally. It didn't happen overnight for him, there was no quick fix.

It's refreshing to read a book like this. He was willing to be open and honest about everything. He's willing to let the world know about his life and its ups and downs. In his youth, he had a bit of naivete about sex and sexual identity, but as an adult he was very graphic about his sexual exploits. But at the same time, he was very aware that something was wrong with him mentally. His writing is very blunt and gritty. It's not easy to read, but ultimately it's a story of redemption and hope.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours


  1. This sounds like a challenging read as it puts the reader right there with David as he's struggling through life.

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  2. Thanks so much. The book really is difficult to read. Some moments I feel sorry for him, and others I want him to just get over it.