It takes courage to speak out about one's mental illness. It takes a lot more to write about it in a book.
That's what author Josh Greenfield decided to do with his novel, "Cutting Through the Knot." Greenfield held a book reading and signing at Borders in Syosset on Saturday, and says while the book is a work of fiction, it is based on his own life experiences.
"It deals with mental illness in a direct but humorous manner," Greenfield says. The lead character is Jordan Fineman (note the initials), who, while on leave from Cornell (Greenfield is a grad), suffers an emotional breakdown. Jordan is treated by a psychiatrist, but doesn't take his medicine, and ends up in a mental hospital. He escapes. Twice.
The book is told in a conversational, first-person narrative, and follows Jordan's journey, both physical and mental, as he carries around the 'knot': the mental issues weighing him down.
They are issues that Josh Greenfield has dealt with for decades. He was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1984 (then known as manic depression). He also developed a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A double-blow that Greenfield said he battled head-on.
"It was the darkest of the dark, and by the grace of God it passed, I'm happy to say I'm enjoying myself and taking it one day at at time," he says.
Writing about his struggles proved therapeutic for Greenfield. Through the fictional story of Jordan, Josh writes of what he was going through the first year after his original diagnosis. Humor is a key element in the novel, a tool to be used to help cope with and defeat mental illness.
"Cutting through the knot means that humor cuts through the knot," the author and Bronx resident said. "If you're able to laugh at yourself, a lot of the problems of mental illness can lose their potency."
Greenfield said that the combination of family support, therapy and medicine has helped him through his years of struggle, again as he says, taking things one day at a time.
He has continued to speak of mental illness through other novels he is working on. He's working on a screenplay and even performs stand-up on the topic as well. On stage, or on the printed page, it's about humor leading one through the darkness.
"Trying to see the humor in mental illness and also, as much as possible, to live in the day," Greenfield said, summing up the theme of his work and life. "To take things one day at a time...to live in the present rather than the past or the future."
Cutting Through the Knot is available for download for the Kindle at Amazon.