Jul 4, 2013

Building a life despite tough symptoms

Barbara Altman’s memoir of a life affected by mental illness, set in the latter half of the twentieth century in the American Midwest, tells about what many people experience. Trauma is connected with substance abuse and is embedded in family life. Accomplishments also play out in intimate settings: homes, schools, churches and workplaces. Ms. Altman’s book tells the story of a someone who faced challenging mental health issues but still discovered meaning and success, and a life of grace, service and dignity.

Ms. Altman writes about her life from childhood to the middle of her sixth decade. She tells of a difficult home life centered around an alcoholic father. She experienced her father’s harsh temper, and possibly worse. At age 15, Ms. Altman became aware of vague nonspecific memories of sexual trauma when her father admitted to having sexual thoughts about young children.

As Ms. Altman worked through anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders and depression, she discovered her talent for music, and built a career in music education and music therapy. She writes about finding meaning and a place in the world through the support of other people and the consolation of her Christian faith. Overcoming anxiety was a matter of exposure in small increments. She writes about facing challenges deliberately, building up courage bit by bit, at a pace she could tolerate. It took a year for her to learn to swim a complete lap in an indoor pool, but she did it.

I like this book. It describes experiences common to many, recounts personal growth and service to others, and talks about what helps.

Recovering from Depression, Anxiety and Depression: My Journey through Mental Illness, by Barbara Altman is available through Amazon. Learn more about Barbara Altman at .


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