With the intent of helping others in similar situations, E.R. Buckler chronicles 56 difficult years of married life with Wilma, who suffers from a bipolar disorder and dementia.
In the first third of this autobiography, Buckler briefly introduces Wilma as coming from a dysfunctional family and then introduces himself as a kind person coming from a good family. The balance of the book spirals down from the dream of a happy life together to a narrative of a frightening world where mental illness affects not only the patient, Wilma, but also the life of Buckler, her caretaker to the end.
The day-to-day account of Everett and Wilma’s life rambles on–disjointed, tedious, repetitive, and exhausting–but then so life is with chronic mental illness. Besides the at-home daily routines, Buckler details trips to the ER, his wife’s stays in mental institutions, and “an endless cycle of behavioral changes” exhibiting the classic symptoms of her medical condition: combativeness, ambivalence, promiscuity, poor judgment, eating problems, hallucinations, incontinence, and insomnia. The list of medications, such as Lithium, Prolixin, Seroquel, goes on and on, as do their ineffectiveness and side effects. As each year passes, Wilma and Everett dwell ever more within a sphere of frustration, hopelessness, and loneliness–a revolving orb beyond anyone’s control.
This is an autobiography of a couple, yes, but there is only one author here, the husband. The wife does appear in chapters bearing her name, but these chapters– penned by Buckler–do not resonate authenticity. Buckler tries to give Wilma’s point of view, perhaps in an attempt to understand her illness. True knowledge, though, of what it is to experience the agitated and reckless elation of mania followed by the misery, guilt, and low self-esteem of depression could come only from Wilma’s own reckoning. Note: this book has typographical errors.
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