‘My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward’ Offers Insight Into the Pain of Mental Illness [REVIEW]

Woman in bed

When a man finds out that his wife is mentally ill, will he have the strength to stick by her? Find out in Mark Lukach’s powerful memoir, My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward. (Photo by Lawrence Murray, Flickr)

Nearly all of us are taught the classic stories where boy meets girl. But not every couple gets a “happy ever after.” Sometimes, even the most dazzling romances can get dark and twisty, especially when mental illness rears its ugly head. In his memoir My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward, Mark Lukach recounts the frightening tale of how his beautiful bride became someone he didn’t recognize, and what it took to keep his young family together. 


Harper Wave

Mark and Giulia’s story together starts out like many do. They meet in college, fall in love, get married, then move to the West Coast for work. But as Giulia starts a new job, she suddenly realizes that something isn’t right, and Mark begins detecting signs that she needs more help than he alone can provide.

As Giulia slips down the rabbit hole called bipolar disorder, she has to quit work and it takes her a full year to recover, after which she and Mark decide to have a child, a boy they name Jonas. As time passes and other episodes occur, various health care workers help Mark understand that he needs to protect his son above all else.

I understand this fact better than most. It’s the reason why upon receiving a copy of this book in the mail, I didn’t have a desire to read someone else’s account of navigating mental illness within his family. I lived it. I was already intimately familiar with bipolar disease since my own father battled with it for most of his life.

As you can imagine, Lukach’s memoir brought up lots of old memories that were better left forgotten. But that is also what makes this story one that should be told. Lukach’s style and ease of writing are enjoyable to read, even if the topic is a difficult one to address. For families that may be going through this for the first time, he deftly captures the angst, pain, and confusion that comes with the diagnosis and with watching a loved one come undone.

That being said, the book also frustrated me because I could only watch as Lukach made bad choices based on a romanticized ideal of love and marriage. I say this because love alone cannot make a mentally ill person better, no matter how much you might wish it to be so. In fact, at some point, families have to accept that people with bipolar disorder are traveling a rocky road with no end in sight.

Also, perhaps it’s the fault of the editor rather than the author, but the idea that someone can “fully recover” from mental illness, as the dust jacket suggests, is simply wrong. The illness can be managed with medication and therapy provided by helpful, caring, and insightful health care providers who truly want to see your family succeed. But all those things are neccessary. Love alone just won’t cut it.

Nevertheless, the Lukach’s story is ultimately successful in demonstrating why couples need to be appreciative of every moment they have together. After all, in the end, all any of us has is the here and now and we must choose to live in the present. How we endure the hardships and challenges of life reveals our true mettle and shows others exactly what we’re made of. If you or someone you know is going through this turbulent time, don’t look at My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward as a tutorial on what works and what doesn’t. What it does do is it paints a vivid portrait of the challenges both a patient and a caregiver face when dealing with mental illness, and in this way it works as a volume that is both deeply personal and insightful and it just might offer you some hope during a very dark time.


Mark Lukach

Mark Lukach

Mark Lukach is a teacher and freelance writer. His work has been published in the New York Times, the AtlanticPacific StandardWired, and other publications.

He is currently the ninth-grade dean at The Athenian School, where he also teaches history.

He lives with his wife Giulia, and their son in the San Francisco Bay area.

Visit his home on the Web at MarkLukach.com, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

By Mark Lukach
320 pgs. Harper Wave. $25.99

Purchase My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward at one of these fine online retailers: HarperCollins, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

TLC Book Tours Tour HostThe memoir, My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward, is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

Watch Giulia and Mark talk about bi-polar disease on KTVU-TV below.

About Heather Fink
Heather Fink is a writer, bibliophile and award-winning librarian who loves to introduce the next generation of readers to the wonderful world of books. She currently resides in Texas.

2 Responses to ‘My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward’ Offers Insight Into the Pain of Mental Illness [REVIEW]

  1. Jathan Fink says:

    Reblogged this on Jadeworks Entertainment and commented:

    What would you do if you found out someone you loved was diagnosed with a mental illness? Would you have the strength to salvage your relationship? Author Mark Lukach recounts his own family’s experience in his powerful new memoir, My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

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