Review: Med Head: My Knock-Down, Dragged-Out, Drugged-Up Battle With My Brain

Med Head How it FEELS to have a body that won’t stop moving, to be really different from everyone else, to be made fun of every day, to be totally reckless, to never relax, to be shut out of everything, to break FREE and TAKE CONTROL.
James Patterson’s Against Medical Advice riveted adults with the page-turning drama of one teenager’s courage, sacrifice, and triumph in confronting an agonizing medical condition. Now this deeply personal account of Cory Friedman’s intense struggles with Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder–as well as depression, anxiety, and alcohol addiction–is available for teen readers.” – Goodreads

I was undecided for a while on whether or not I was going to read Med Head: My Knock-Down, Dragged-Out, Drugged-Up Battle With My Brain by James Patterson and Hal Friedman. I am not generally a fan of James Patterson. I was drawn to this book, however, because it chronicles a young boy’s thirteen-year struggle with Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, as well as with depression and anxiety. My own son, a.k.a. The Boy, struggles with these issues as well, and I wanted to learn more about someone else’s personal experiences in these areas. All I can say is thank God that The Boy’s path through this jungle does not mirror Cory Friedman’s.

Shortly after turning five years old, Cory began to experience uncontrollable body movements as well as verbal outbursts. Originally diagnosed with ADHD, the medication prescribed for this only exacerbated his symptoms. He was later diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, and later yet with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The story of Cory’s struggle is accompanied by a laundry list of drugs, more drugs, and still more drugs. Between the ages of five and seventeen, Cory was prescribed over thirty different medications, none of which helped his symptoms significantly and many of which caused them to worsen. In Med Head, we are shown the horrors of some of the most commonly prescribed drugs/medications used today.

Throughout his school years, Cory experienced bullying and prejudice from classmates and school staff. He was often treated as though he had learning disabilities when, in fact, he was much brighter than most children his age. Through much of his struggles, Cory displayed a strong sense of optimism, strength, courage, and resilience. This allowed him to make it through the long, hard years. His strong interest and talent in computers and sports also helped him through some of his most difficult times. After years of treatment with various powerful medications, Cory began to struggle with depression and anxiety, and severe addictions to cigarettes and alcohol. The story of how he beat these addictions and how he ultimately conquered his battle with Tourette’s Syndrome is an emotional and inspirational one. As the mother of a child with Tourette’s Syndrome, it gives me hope, and I believe it will give hope to others in these circumstances as well.

This book is well-written in the sense that it is well-written to hold the attention of adolescents. Other than that, a literary feat it is not. The chapters average about three pages in length and the story ultimately reads very quickly and uses clearly understandable language. James Patterson wrote Med Head, collaborating with Hal Friedman, who incidentally is the father of Cory Friedman. The two authors also co-wrote an adult version of this publication titled Against Medical Advice: One Family’s Struggle With an Agonizing Medical Mystery, published in 2008. Patterson and Friedman wrote Med Head working from Cory’s memories and recollections, the family’s medical records and journals, and personal observations. Using this information, the authors shape a colorful and engaging first-person narrative that, as previously mentioned, is based on their previous publication, Against Medical Advice.

While I believe that essentially the central message of Med Head is about the power that persistence and belief in yourself can have in your life, I think there is also a message to readers that having patience, understanding, empathy, and compassion for others is key. For the one constant throughout Cory’s struggle was his parents’ unwavering love, support, and encouragement. They never once left his side, they never once gave up on him, and they never once stopped expressing their love for him. How wonderful it would be if we could do that for all those around us. I, for one, believe it would be conducive to much more healing in this world, just as Cory eventually experienced healing in his.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries Digital Downloads

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