Author’s annals – those arse-covering pleas focussed on cloaking shiftiness with fairness – tend to be skipped by all though a pernicketiest of readers. An difference should be done for AK Benjamin’s. The 8 lines that prologue Let Me Not Be Mad cut loyal to a singed, fast-beating heart of a mental-health discourse like no other. Having explained that he’s altered all identifying details, from earthy facilities to backgrounds and locations, as good as consistent genuine and illusory encounters, he adds: “If anything, this difficulty creates a book some-more loyal as an comment of my experience.”
It is satisfactory warning. And nonetheless a loyal inlet of that knowledge isn’t immediately apparent. Benjamin – not his genuine name, of march – is a clinical neuropsychologist in his late 40s. He specialises in diagnosis and strident rehabilitation, and a book’s opening chapters etch a array of constrained clinical encounters. We accommodate a dreaming comparison lady named Lucy, who competence or competence not have Alzheimer’s. There is a uneasy child incompetent to conflict electrocuting himself with a sight set, and a fiftysomething banker whose base-jumping mind damage has incited him into “an English Dali”. In his consulting room in a debt-ridden London NHS trust, zero escapes Benjamin, not even a persperate rags relocating opposite Lucy’s dress, “a live map of flapping continents, like someone drowning in delayed motion”.
These clever, benevolent box studies enthuse ruminations on a restive array of topics, including a hiding interest that misdiagnosis can reason for a studious (“like creation a best of an organised marriage, so that over time we forget that it chose you”) and a asymmetry during a core of a patient-doctor relationship.
In passing, Benjamin juxtaposes glimpses of a bland fear of neurodegenerative diseases – a father, say, who bites his immature son so tough while personification that a child bleeds – with black comedy. The word “apple” is used to problematic supportive information on departmental records, for instance, while veteran misconception leads to a designation of £50k’s value of CCTV cameras in a prosaic of a male with paranoid delusions.
Benjamin is kinetic company, his skinny comprehension matched with a affinity for rarefied utterance (he can never conflict a “lickerish” mouth) and memorable images. “We are skull-jumpers,” he says of his profession. Often, his descriptions welcome frigid opposites. An MRI, for example, is “readable and therefore misreadable”. In part, this comes with a domain – he’s mostly tasked with determining either a studious is exhibiting symptoms of a terrible illness or “just being a tellurian being”, a dual distant by a line that can be copiousness excellent adequate to miss. But it all contributes to a entertainment clarity that something is not utterly right, that a belligerent has turn inconstant underneath a reader’s feet.
It’s not altogether surprising, then, when Benjamin reveals how, in his 20s, he became really “taken” with a thought of jumping in front of a sight during Tottenham Court Road. As his attribute with a mom of his tiny daughters crumbles, as he loses a tighten crony and coach and throws himself into Ironman training to a ostracism of all else, it becomes apparent this alloy is sick.
The book’s second half fuses an alarming, increasingly claustrophobic psychodrama with irresistibly pointy informative explanation that creates even greying bugbears such as listicles and a injustice of a word “literally” seem fresh. He’s bouncing between friends’ gangling bedrooms and has had complaints done opposite him during work, and still a insights keep coming, either it’s a violation of infantilising a aged by sparkling them with technology, or a bizarrely “innocent” incentive that infrequently drives suicide – a “paradoxical life-preserving faith that one is perplexing to mislay that partial of oneself that is so wounding, forgetful about a baby in a bathwater”.
Given a volume of pang and despondency that gets dense into an normal operative day for Benjamin, his diagnosis of what finally pushes him over a corner competence seem startling – glib, too. “I can contend but exaggeration that a routine of formulating and perpetuating Brad76 gathering me mad,” he writes of his knowledge on Guardian Soulmates.
Really? Well, approbation and no, to a border that it can be parsed from a immersive, labyrinthine content he’s laid down. Early mishap and a lifelong imagination for impassioned poise also play their part, along with generation-wide symptoms that will be informed to many: restlessness, loneliness, an additional of irony, a feeling of being during once under- and overstimulated. But as good as holding behind a wily turn for a end, this is a content that constantly interrogates a really act of narrativisation, together with a stipulations and a tricks that a minds play on us with it.
Aptly, a author’s colleagues have combined his name to a evidence canon. Benjamin’s syndrome describes a incentive to tell stories that are, wittingly or unwittingly, opposite ourselves. Let Me Not Be Mad is a classical example; it’s also a wild, genre-defying wake-up call of a book.
• Let Me Not Be Mad: A Story of Unravelling Minds by AK Benjamin is published by Bodley Head (£16.99). To sequence a duplicate go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK pp over £15, online orders only. Phone orders min pp of £1.99