Madness: a Memoir

Kate Richards

Madness: a Memoir
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Madness: a Memoir

Kate Richards

The thing with psychosis is that when I’m sick I believe the delusional stuff to the same degree that you might know the sky is above and the earth below. And if someone were to say to me that the delusional thinking is, in fact, delusional, well that’s the same as if I assure you now that we walk on the sky. Of course you wouldn’t believe me, and that’s why it’s sometimes so hard for people who are sick like this to know that they need treatment.

Psychosis and severe depression have a huge effect on how you relate to other people and how you see the world. It’s a bit like being in a vacuum, or behind a wall of really thick glass…you lose any sense of connectedness. You’re cast adrift from everyone and everything that matters. I’ve lived with acute psychosis and depression for the best part of twenty years.

This is the story of my journey from chaos to balance, and from limbo to meaning.

Kate Richards is a trained doctor currently working in medical research.


I went to secondary school with Kate Richards, or Katie as I knew her then, where she was an intelligent, friendly yet slightly reserved high achiever. I first heard that she was writing a book – a memoir on madness – at our 20-year school reunion. The last adjective I would have attributed to someone like Katie was ‘mad’, yet her story tells of living with acute psychosis and depression since the age of 15.

After graduation, Kate went on to study medicine, and her training as a doctor allows for unique insight. Her account is one of extreme chaos and despair, where the voices in her head override logic and visions of death are pervasive. She describes in detail her suicidal thoughts and attempts, and the later bouts of psychosis that led her to being hospitalised and given electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Kate’s darkness cut right through to my core, echoing the powerful force of Sylvia Plath.

While I would suggest that this is perhaps not the book for those who are currently suffering deeply from mental illness themselves, it would serve as an invaluable resource for the people who work with and care for them.

The most striking aspect of Madness: A Memoir is that it resonates with us all. It is the story of how an ordinary person can plummet to unfathomable lows. Yet with great courage, support from family and friends and good medical assistance, Kate has reached a safer, more manageable, peaceful place of balance and wellness. An engrossing and inspiring story of despair, fragility, life, death and hope.

Emily Harms is Readings’ marketing manager

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