Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Impressions of Emma Forrest & Your Voice in My Head

Even though I'm straight, I have a crush on Emma Forrest.  Or maybe I just want to be her?  Over the weekend, I finished reading Your Voice in My Head, a memoir exploring love, loss, mental health, and one woman's journey towards wellness.  By the end, I was infatuated and now fantasize about how great it would be to have a cup of tea- of the Long Island variety- with her.  I imagine we'd never stop talking and laughing (and oogling attractive men passing by)! 

Top 10 Reasons I'm Emma Forrest's New Biggest Fan:

  1.  She's hot.  I admire luscious ladies who know how to rock their curves and enjoy their bodies!  Wish I had her sex life too.
  2.  Her mind is razor sharp.
  3. She works her quirk!  Originality is such a turn on.
  4. I love her wicked sense of humour.  More than once I snorted out loud reading at the pool, much to my embarrassment.
  5. Complex people always interest me. Her ability to skim the surface with amusing anecdotes about her family one moment, and then plunge the depths of despair the next, drew me in.
  6. Her talent is dazzling!  Imagine being hired as a journalist at 16 and later writing in NYC for the Guardian.  (As a teenager I thought I was lucky serving French fries at Arby's near the college campus.  Clearly I lack ambition).
  7. I would sell my soul to craft sentences like hers. 
  8. She makes writing seem effortless: It's possible to create a screenplay in 3 days?  The fact that she sold her comedy Liars for enough money to pay off her debts almost made me envious, until I remembered the negative side of mania... depression.
  9. She expresses her raw emotions honestly. Never did I feel she indulged in self-pity. I often felt compassion for her and wished she could feel more compassion for herself. 
  10. I felt better about myself after reading her story and was reminded that most women are similar.  Emma Forrest is capable of feeling just as inadequate as I sometimes do, despite her success.  Even the prettiest, smartest, most accomplished woman in the room doesn't always feel that way inside.  It's not the comparisons that damage us so much.  It's the relentless criticism, and unwillingness to believe that we are inherently acceptable and worthy of love just as we are, that continually causes harm. 

In her memoir, Emma Forrest often alludes to Ophelia, but I've cast her as Persephone in my mind.  Emma very much reminds me of this archetype; she seems to embody the innocent maiden abducted by Hades and violated.  However, the goddess does not remain merely a victim, and neither does Emma.  Persephone eventually owns her sexuality, and decides to welcome her captor/ husband into her bed.  As a result of claiming her power, she becomes both Queen of the Underworld and the Guide of Lost Souls. By writing clearly about her experience of madness, Emma enlightens readers about manic-depression and the other mental health issues she faced.  She gives voice to those who have suffered similar illnesses.  Not everyone is comfortable navigating the dark waters of the psyche, but it's valuable territory for those brave enough to dive into the unknown abyss. 

Persephone was also the daughter of Demeter, the great Earth Mother.  In Emma's life, as in the Greek myth, her mother is a central character.  I enjoyed their relationship most of all in the book.  Images of them 'dancing their asses off' and singing gospel music, juxtaposed with them crying together, painted a picture of real family life.

Your Voice in My Head is a lyrical account of what it is like for a sensitive individual to love with her whole heart, experience the crushing pain of loss, and recover once more.  Ultimately it is a tale of healing.  In closing, I'd like to leave you with a few wise words from Emma's beloved psychiatrist, which should resonate with everyone.

"Let me tell you something, and I want you to remember it: who you authentically are, there is no one and nothing that can add or subtract from that." -Dr R

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