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Submitted Literature

A Pillar of Impotence

By Mark Edgar


This is a fascinating autobiography that explores one man’s journey though a range of mental health inpatient and outpatient services. Along the way, he attracts various diagnoses including various forms of Depression and Personality Disorder (narcissistic according to one doctor and borderline according to another). The lack of stable diagnosis in this text emphasises some of the issues around the medicalisation of distress and subsequent lack of human empathy and warmth towards anything that may fit within a diagnostic or symptomological box. This book also explores in stark and frank detail the lack of care afforded to those who are, effectively, ‘written off’ by the mental health system as being Personality Disordered and therefore untreatable. This text ends on a note of hope, when Mark Edgar commences a medication that works for him and enables him to continue with studying and a successful career in spite of some 10 years or so of illness, suicidality and unemployment. I will be recommending to my nursing students as there are some searing insights here into the emotional experience of becoming, and being, a Psychiatric Patient – and, most importantly, of recovery.  

Key Themes:

  • Autobiography

Significant Quotes / Pages

127 – ‘Spring moved into summer and memories of the Palace and its bars came back with the heat. Things deteriorated rapidly in June. I crossed the suicide line and was only bought back from the edge by the efforts of Sophie and Becky at much cost to themselves. There were repercussions this time as people from the past actually made contact with my GP to warn of my condition. I was furious but powerless at that.

The fury was rapidly intensified when the German announced that “you’re not ill, you just have a lot of problems”. Where she got that idea from I had no idea but that seemed to be the line she wanted to take for better or worse. It didn’t help me very much, simply alienating me further and instilling even greater distrust. Vicky was also widening the gap between us in our weekly meetings. The end of anything meaningful happened when she told me that “you do have to want to get better”. Her line was that I could only do it myself but I was completely lost. I couldn’t see what I had to get better for and I knew that the views of the experts were failing me. I now severely doubted their ability and their diagnosis. I could accept that I had very low mood and was essentially depressed but I felt it was more complex than that. It did not explain the violent mood swings or Rachel’s voice. The fear of every day living and those around me still abounded. My head pounded constantly and there was no explanation. Above all, if I had depression, why on earth did I have no response to treatment? I didn’t know it at the time, but the shrinks were having similar thoughts but heading down a new path that was so far from the reality that I lived that it was scary. But that was to be in the future; I wasn’t yet ready to realise about the hidden agenda that accompanies most cases of psychiatric treatment.’

Reference: Mark, Edgar. 2011. A Pillar of Impotence. Chipmunkapublishing, 2011


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Thursday 21st July 2011