The thing that makes me REALLY want to read Down Below, Carrington’s memoir about having a breakdown in 1930s Spain and undergoing ECT, chemically-induced seizures, various other invasive treatments, is- on top of my long-standing interest in surrealist approaches to mental illness, on top of the inherent appeal of women artists writing about their encounters with coercive psychiatry (see Airless Spaces)- the tension between I’m sure what her family and some of the people responsible for her care saw as ‘privileged young woman, travelling in Spain after a bohemian soujourn in France, ends up at the British Embassy suffering from delusions’, and the reality of being 22/23, in France when the Germans invade, and seeing your older lover and artistic collaborator, who you ran away to pursue your vocation with, interned as an undesirable foreigner and then arrested by the Nazis for being a Jewish artist with suspect politics, only to flee without you to the US, probably against this backdrop of all your friends and colleagues being totally terrified of what would happen to them or already having to deal with other, similarly impossible situations; not to get all anti-psych here, but who the fuck wouldn’t be stressed out to the point of paranoia by all that?

The thing that really amazes me about that is that it’s a very individualised, peacetime response to a series of traumatic events that vast numbers of people were having to deal with.

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