Title: All the Things We Never Knew by Shelia Hamilton
Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness
Publisher: Seal Press
Genre: Contemporary, Non-Fiction, Memoir
Length: 312 pages
Book Rating: A+ & A Recommended Read
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Even as a reporter, Sheila Hamilton missed the signs as her husband David’s mental illness unfolded before her. By the time she had pieced together the puzzle, it was too late. Her once brilliant and passionate partner was dead within six weeks of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, leaving his young daughter and wife without so much as a note to explain his actions, a plan to help them recover from their profound grief, or a solution for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that they would inherit from him.
All the Things We Never Knew takes readers on a breathtaking journey from David and Sheila’s romance through the last three months of their life together and into the year after his death. It details their unsettling spiral from ordinary life into the world of mental illness, examines the fragile line between reality and madness, and reveals the true power of love and forgiveness.
All the Things We Never Knew is the absolutely heartbreaking account of author Shelia Hamilton’s experience with her first husband’s battle with bipolar disorder and his subsequent suicide. This deeply emotional but incredibly powerful story is unflinchingly honest and shines a much needed light on mental illness and how easy it is to overlook, excuse or explain away loved ones’ symptoms and behavior. A courageous and heart wrenching story that will help raise awareness and hopefully destigmatize mental illness and suicide, I HIGHLY recommend this extraordinary memoir to all readers.
Right from her very first encounter with her soon to be husband, David Krol, Sheila Hamilton was smitten. Attracted to his enthusiastic zest for life, she fell fast and she fell hard for the successful contractor. Sheila and David soon married and they were both overjoyed when she gave birth to their daughter, Sophie. However, their picture perfect life begins to unravel when Sheila learns of David’s infidelity and despite her decision to remain married, their marriage never quite recovers from his betrayal. This discovery was an important red flag and it was just one of many symptoms of David’s undiagnosed bipolar disorder that Sheila overlooked in the course of their ten year marriage.
When Sheila married David, she was a highly successful and well respected television newsreporter and it is almost incomprehensible to understand her decision to stay with him. Her choice was not made lightly and while well-intentioned, living with David became unbearable in the face of his increasingly erratic behavior in the years to come. Although it was impossible not to notice his mood swings, irrational outbursts and unusual sensitivity to lights, sounds and smells, she never connected these symptoms to any type of mental illness. Denial, lack of information and little knowledge of his family history made it impossible to put the pieces of the puzzle together until David’s condition deteriorated and he was hospitalized when she finally worked up the courage to begin divorce proceedings. It was during this time that Sheila uncovered the shocking state of his company’s finances and learned that David was deeply in debt. Before she could get to the bottom of the financial mess, David was released from the hospital, and he committed suicide, leaving Sheila and Sophie reeling with grief and trying to comprehend what drove him to take his own life.
The chapters alternate between the events of Sheila’s and David’s ten year marriage and valuable insight and staggering statistics about mental illness and treatment options. This information is often provided in the context of Sheila’s experiences with David but these resources would also be helpful to anyone whose life is affected by mental illness. The narrative also offers a thought-provoking and compelling argument about the role genetics play in inheriting such illnesses. It is also provides an eye-opening discussion on how personal experiences and family history can affect the way someone deals with a loved one or acquaintance who suffers from a mental illness.
All the Things We Never Knew is an unforgettable and poignant story about Shelia Hamilton’s marriage to a man with an undiagnosed mental disorder. Although sometimes difficult to read, this heartrending memoir is as educational as it is heartbreaking and it is a book I highly recommend.