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Irritable Hearts
Cover of Irritable Hearts
Irritable Hearts
A PTSD Love Story
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"I had nightmares, flashbacks. I dissociated... Changes in self-perception and hallucinations-those are some of my other symptoms. You are poison, I chanted silently to myself. And your poison is...
"I had nightmares, flashbacks. I dissociated... Changes in self-perception and hallucinations-those are some of my other symptoms. You are poison, I chanted silently to myself. And your poison is...
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  • "I had nightmares, flashbacks. I dissociated... Changes in self-perception and hallucinations-those are some of my other symptoms. You are poison, I chanted silently to myself. And your poison is contagious."
    So begins Mac McClelland's powerful, unforgettable memoir, Irritable Hearts.
    When thirty-year-old, award-winning human rights journalist Mac McClelland left Haiti after reporting on the devastating earthquake of 2010, she never imagined how the assignment would irrevocably affect her own life. Back home in California, McClelland cannot stop reliving vivid scenes of violence. She is plagued by waking terrors, violent fantasies, and crippling emotional breakdowns. She can't sleep or stop crying. Her life in shambles, it becomes clear that she is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her bewilderment about this sudden loss of control is magnified by the intensity of her feelings for Nico, a French soldier she met in Port-au-Prince and with whom she connected instantly and deeply.
    With inspiring fearlessness, McClelland tackles perhaps her most harrowing assignment to date: investigating the damage in her own mind and repairing her broken psyche. She begins to probe the depths of her illness, exploring our culture's history with PTSD, delving into the latest research by the country's top scientists and therapists, and spending time with veterans and their families. McClelland discovers she is far from alone: while we frequently associate PTSD with wartime combat, it is more often caused by other manner of trauma and can even be contagious-close proximity to those afflicted can trigger its symptoms. As she confronts the realities of her diagnosis, she opens up to the love that seems to have found her at an inopportune moment. Irritable Hearts is a searing, personal medical mystery that unfolds at a breakneck pace. But it is also a romance. McClelland fights desperately to repair her heart so that she can give it to the kind, patient, and compassionate man with whom she wants to share a life. Vivid, suspenseful, tender, and intimate, Irritable Hearts is a remarkable exploration of vulnerability and resilience, control and acceptance. It is a riveting and hopeful story of survival, strength, and love.

About the Author-

  • MAC MCCLELLAND is an award-winning journalist and author of For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question: A Story From Burma's Never-Ending War. She's appeared on major national and international media outlets such as MSNBC, PBS, NPR, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now, the BBC, CBC, and Deutsche Welle. She's won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Hillman Foundation, the Online News Association, and the Society of Environmental Journalists; she's been nominated for two National Magazine Awards for Feature Writing; and her work has been anthologized in the Best American Magazine Writing, Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011, and Best Business Writing.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 2, 2015
    This raw look at life with PTSD begins in Haiti in September 2010, where an earthquake has just shaken the very fabric of society. McClelland (A Twisted Trail) is one of the journalists who comes to Port-au-Prince to cover femicide and hate crimes, and she witnesses "something." She does not provide details, only writing that it has to do with rape, and that watching the "something" is the closest she's ever been to someone else's terror. Immediately afterward, she feels "a disembodied version of myself hovering somewhere behind me and to the left." This dissociation and a psychological numbness—so severe that she felt no emotion when her boyfriend, Nico, placed a rose on her chest and fed her strawberries in bed one day—are symptoms that strain her ability to function. McClelland pulls herself away from drinking binges with the help of Nico's steadiness, a somatic therapist's expertise, and the affirmation she receives from PTSD survivors who thank her for reporting on the illness. McClelland is writing this memoir for those survivors. She asks readers who haven't experienced dissociation and numbness to empathize with psychological conditions that they won't fully understand, and makes it easy to grant that request.

  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2014
    Sprawling memoir of an adventurous journalist's experiences with PTSD.National Magazine Award-nominated writer McClelland (For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question: A Story from Burma's Never-Ending War, 2010) considered herself accustomed to tough environments. However, on the ground in Haiti to cover the chaotic reconstruction following the 2010 earthquake, she witnessed acts of sexual violence (left largely unspecified) that instilled in her a severe case of PTSD, manifesting in jolting physical symptoms: "[f]lashbacks of the screaming incident I witnessed in Haiti burst into my head and I lay there, soft and failed, choking on instant hard sobs." Yet on the same trip, she had begun an improbable romance with Nico, a youthful French soldier. When she was back in the United States, they kept in touch via Skype, but McClelland's PTSD symptoms and attendant depression became more debilitating. When she first published writing about her experience, she was condemned for solipsism, yet she also heard from many fellow sufferers, ranging from women who'd encountered domestic violence to a growing community of PTSD-afflicted combat veterans and their families: "They were the collateral damage that didn't end with veterans, that everyone pretended didn't exist...." As McClelland tried to hang on to her relationship with Nico, she realized that her experiences were representative of a large, undiagnosed demographic of suffering. She discovered that an extensive, therapy-based treatment regimen (involving the examination of every trauma in her past, including the explosive dissolution of her parents' relationship) allowed her to move forward gradually, into accepting Nico's impulsive marriage proposal. The author takes a maximalist approach, focusing exhaustively on her own experiences and grim sensations (as well as those of the people she encounters), so the narrative feels progressively less focused while remaining compassionate and perceptive regarding this elusive malady. McClelland's candor and empathy are admirable, but this would have benefited from more editorial shaping.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    September 1, 2014
    This book will quickly follow publication of David J. Morris's "The Evil Hours: A Biography of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder" (Houghton Harcourt, Jan. 2015), which attests to our growing recognition of how pervasive and serious PTSD is. Returning home from covering the 2010 Haitian earthquake, award-winning human rights journalist McClelland began suffering bouts of sleeplessness, sobbing, and the vivid conjuring of violent images. Recognizing PTSD when she saw it, she set out to understand its history and consequences while learning to heal through love.

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A PTSD Love Story
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