On crazy families

  The administration building at McLean Hospital, in Belmont, Mass. It's New England's most famous mental hospital.

The administration building at McLean Hospital, in Belmont, Mass. It's New England's most famous mental hospital.

From the movie Casablanca:

 

German Major Strasser: “What is your nationality?’’
Rick Blaine: “I’m a drunkard.’’
French Captain Renault: “That makes Rick a citizen of the world.’


To paraphrase Tolstoy’s famous line from Anna Karenina about “all unhappy families being unhappy in their own way”: All crazy families are crazy in their own way.

I’m referring to psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell’s just-published memoir Because I Come From a Crazy Family. Hallowell, author of the best seller Driven to Distraction, about attention-deficit disorder, grew up in a family with a psychotic father, alcoholic mother, abusive stepfather, and two  “learning disabilities’’ of his own. It’s a sometimes harrowing, sometimes funny and almost always engaging saga featuring what Dr. Hallowell calls the “WASP triad of alcoholism, mental illness and politeness.’’ Actually, of course, the WASPs aren’t the only ethnic group with that triad. Beyond Hallowell’s very personal tale, the book is a primer on what happens in the mental-health trade, from medical school on.

Most of the book takes place in New England, with colorful side trips to Charleston and New Orleans.  GoLocal readers will see many familiar scenes.