Sel Erder Yackley is a native Türk — an immigrant and now a citizen of America. I had the chance to hear her sharing memories of living with a bipolar spouse.
Her black and white book cover looked awfully grim, the title even grimmer, and the subject did nothing to make me say, “gee, I can’t wait to read that.” Yet the author, Sel Erder Yackley, was so nice and friendly when I met her at a book store, and most importantly, smart and courageous in telling her story, that I just felt I had to buy her slim book. I was so glad I did!
Her book wasn’t just about her life with a bipolar spouse; it included her incredible story of immigration to America. I would shake my head in admiration, as I read, at Ms. Yackley’s gift for making the most of every single opportunity that ever presented itself to her as a new resident of America.
She also brought her journalist’s impartiality and detachment in describing the mental illness her husband suffered from in small town Illinois when she tells her story. I use the word detachment because she feels no shame and expresses no shame in sharing her husband’s downward spiral and eventual suicide due to his bipolar condition. That’s so important, I believe, because it frees others to not blame themselves and just deal with these situations as the medical conditions they are.
It couldn’t have been easy being a Turkish Muslim lady living in small-town Illinois. But she made boatloads of friends, even receiving recognition from the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), which is kind of fun since she was neither a man or a Christian.
The author writes, “I’ve learned from the experience of loving and losing a bipolar spouse that mental illness is a psychological and a physiological disorder. It can disturb a person’s ability to think, feel, and relate to others and to his environment. A person with serious mental illness needs quick, accurate diagnosis and treatment with medication as well as psychotherapy. He or she cannot cure or control it through will power or a change in lifestyle. Mental illness is a chronic ailment like diabetes or multiple sclerosis and must be accepted as such without a stigma — and it must be treated. I’ve learned that bipolar disorders are often triggered by a crisis such as the murder trial that preceded Frank’s illness.”
In this second, expanded edition, Sel shares testimonials from readers who have experienced mental health issues in their families. They attest to how the book helped them, even saving their lives. The Illinois Press Women’s Association honored Sel’s book with their book award.
-Review By Karen Van Drie
Publisher: Helm Publishing, Expanded Edition
Publication Date: March 31, 2006
Sel Erder Yackley is an award-winning journalist who was born and reared in Turkey. After receiving her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, she worked for United Press International and for the Chicago Tribune.
Karen Van Drie is a librarian working in Istanbul, Turkey. She is on Twitter at @worldlibraries. She also hosts a Twitter bilingual Turkish/English celebration of reading culture at @EnSonNeOkudun. In her free time, she writes her own blog called ‘Empty Nest Expat.