The Way She Feels: My Life on the Borderline in Pictures and Pieces

Courtney Cook. Tin House, $18.95 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-951142-59-9
Cook’s candid and formally varied graphic memoir debut examines a central paradox of borderline personality disorder, which she was diagnosed with at 23: the disorder explains the mood swings and fear of abandonment that have haunted her since childhood, proving she’s not simply “dramatic”—yet the diagnosis is also characterized by a need for attention. Cook grows up in idyllic Winnetka, Ill., raised in relative privilege with kind parents, but she suspects that neurosurgery in infancy may have contributed to her mental health issues. These she depicts with humor and vulnerability in lists, stories, and bright digital illustrations highlighting her pink hair, phone screen, and abstract word collages. While there’s some repetition, it also shows a mind circling the same points. Cook describes her experience at a residential treatment center in contrast to most literary accounts of institutionalization, fondly recalling art therapy and kinship with other troubled teens. Maturity, medication, and continued therapy bring relative peace, but Cook is frank about her ongoing struggles, including skin-picking and idealization of acquaintances. For better or worse, “all my actions and thoughts and emotions are filtered through my borderline brain.” Readers will appreciate that same brain’s creativity and wit here. (June)
Reviewed on : 05/13/2021
Release date: 06/29/2021
Genre: Comics
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