Hammerhead 84

“I tell my story in these pages to add my voice to the many, hoping that mine will not be a muted scream, but a call to greater understanding and perhaps in time to action. Beyond a recounting of my struggle with the mental health system, this memoir is about choices, both good and bad, and their consequences. It’s also a tribute to the transformative power of relationships. And, finally, this is a chronicle of persistence–the mysterious will to keep pecking away, often blindly with a naive kind of stupidity, but forever hopeful that tomorrow will be a better day.”

Hammerhead 84 has been on my TBR before the conception of Goodreads. I’ve never been able to find it in a library until Dallas, so Mental Health Month was the perfect opportunity to knock this out.

Brett Hartman’s narrative is not just a memoir about the symptoms of schizophrenia, or a college kid’s mental break down. It’s an eyes-wide-open view of the US Mental Health system. Even from a rich white man’s perspective, the view is just pretty goddamned bleak.

Shortly after moving to Auburn for his freshman year, Hartman suffered a psychotic break, that, while was not officially labeled as schizophrenic, had many of the same symptoms. Hammerhead 84 probes into his journey through the pain and confusion of the break and his eventual recovery.

I will admit to being impressed with the amount of detail in this book. It is hard to imagine going through this level of psychosis and retaining such a ridiculous memory about the experience. But, I’ve not been through something like this, so I don’t know what it’s like. Reading about hospitalization just gets worse and worse every time, and I fervently hope I am never so bad as to need it.

I did find it more than slightly ironic that the author talked about breaking down the barriers of stigma more than once…and then used homophobic slurs and mocked Amish women for “inbreeding” and having “drooping eyebrows.” Equality isn’t a one way street, sir. You cannot demand respect for your issue, and then tear down others in the process. After reading such an impressive book, it was a horrible note to end on, and I was extremely disappointed.

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