Emerging Australian author and artist Sophie Hardcastle’s new book, Running like China, is a memoir based on her struggles with mental illness during her youth. Mental illness is still considered a taboo subject, hence many patients are forced to conceal it. Hardcastle attempts to break this silence, laying out her life experiences to reveal the degree of damage afflicted by mental illness on one’s health, self-esteem and familial and social relationships.
I must say, the details in the book are gruesome albeit definitely realistic and familiar to many. Hardcastle presents the myriad personal torments of mental illness, recalling her bouts of self harm and the dark moments in which she was bombarded with suicidal thoughts. Throughout her illness, she lived life under a shadow of confusion and grave despondency, for which she was originally misdiagnosed with Major Depression. After being admitted into hospital five times, she was then told she had Bipolar 1 Disorder. Support from family, friends and communities, such as her school, helped Sophie get back on her feet and strive to live life the way she would like to — the way China, the persona on whom she projects her ideal traits and ambitions, lives her life.
Young people, especially high school students, could learn a lot from reading about Hardcastle’s experiences. Her memoir can be informative, not just for victims of mental illness, but also for members of their family, friends, schoolmates, teachers and colleagues. Hardcastle explains the dangers of using sex, drugs and alcohol to fill a void. Her memoir holds nothing back. It’s personal, recollective and sincere. The progression from diagnosis to recovery is slow and shaky as a child’s first steps. But Hardcastle’s memoir proves that it really is possible to overcome mental illness. She emphasises the value of support and understanding as well as gratitude. At the end of her memoir, Hardcastle adds a note to the reader. She provides links and contact details of organisations that might be of help to people who find themselves in Sophie’s situation or who need more information regarding mental illness.