A young woman struggles to find her place in the world while also grappling with her mental health in this debut memoir.
After Poniarski inadvertently consumed PCP at a college party, she found herself consumed by the notion of an incoherent conspiracy involving socialists and alien craft—which she continued to have after the drug wore off. “My brain fed me lies,” she says of the experience, which caused her parents to put her under the care of a psychiatrist for the first time. Her memoir continues from this moment, recounting her tumultuous 20s during the late 1970s and early ’80s in New York City. Poniarski struggled to finish an architecture degree as she bounced from one program to another, unable to successfully finish courses and fearful that her peers might learn of her “psychotic side.” In a similar manner, she shuttled between her parents’ home on Long Island and apartments in Manhattan, her independence constantly jeopardized by paranoid thoughts and mistrust of roommates and friends. Most poignant, however, is Poniarski’s account of a search for a suitable romantic partner. As she struggles with shame about her sexual feelings, she finds herself drawn to various lovers who each reject her, which only fuels her desire to break out of a lonely existence. Poniarski tells a story with heavy themes, but her prose remains graceful throughout. As she recounts outrageous thoughts and actions, she does so in a manner that gets across not only her distorted view of reality, but also the very real emotions she felt; at one point, for instance, she tells of slapping a man on an airplane after falsely thinking that he was making fun of her. In her fractured accounts of exchanges with colleagues, friends, and lovers, Poniarski also offers clever insights into sexism, the high expectations of her affluent Jewish community, and changing attitudes toward mental health.
An engrossing and often beautiful portrait of living with mental illness.