In 2006, out writer Norah Vincent went undercover as a man for 18 months. She was able to pass quite easily, and turned her experiences into the book Self-Made Man.
After the success of her book, Vincent entered a deep depression, and ended up committing herself to a mental institution. She was able to turn her personal despair into another piece of work, as she committed herself to three different hospitals and chronicled her time for her latest book, Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin.
In the book, Vincent visits facilities in three different parts of the country and compares them to one another in terms of her treatment, both in the form of drugs and personal relationships with caregivers and other patients.
Vincent writes on her web site that she hopes readers will take a handful of things away from Voluntary Madness:
Skepticism — about the purported omniscience and impartiality of their doctors, about the safety/viability of the pharmaceutical solution, as well as the integrity of its most ardent purveyors. Empowerment — that they can participate in their own recovery and well-being, and must. As I say at the end of the book: “If you want to be well, then put your boots on.” Laughter — about the whole damned crazy show, because mirth is indeed good medicine. Encouragement — both in the sense that I want patients to feel rooted for and believed in, but also in the sense that I want them and their families to feel filled with the courage to keep going.
Fans of investigative journalism and skeptics of psychiatry alike will probably find Vincent’s first-hand experiences intriguing. Are you interested in her insider’s approach?