Author(s): Nicola Redhouse
What is a mind? How can its ills be treated when it resides in a body and in a life? With the birth of Nicola Redhouse's first child comes an unrelenting anxiety that quickly overwhelms her. As immense as her love for her children is, it can't protect her from the dread that prevents her from leaving the house, opening the mail, eating. Nor, it seems, can the psychoanalytic thinking she has absorbed through her family and her own years on the couch. The talking cure, and Freud, have fallen so out of favour as to be considered dangerous in some circles. Even Nicola's own sister, always armed with ample scientific literature, is now sceptical. In an attempt to understand the source of her panic, Nicola starts to thread together what she knows about herself and her family with explorations of the human mind in philosophy, science and literature. What role do genetics play in postnatal anxiety? Do the biological changes of motherhood offer a complete explanation? Is the Freudian idea of the mind outdated? Can more recent combined theories from neuroscientists and psychoanalysts provide the answers? How might we be able to know ourselves both through our genes, our biology, our family stories and our own ever-unfolding narratives? In this memoir, Nicola blends her personal experiences of motherhood and a lifetime of dealing with separation anxiety with the historical progression of psychoanalysis. Her quest to understand her self is compelling and insightful. In the end, much like in analysis, it is the careful act of narrative construction - the slow weaving together of language, memory and family story, in her case through writing - that yields the answers, revealing that some things are impervious to clear division.