‘Breaking & Mending’ by Joanna Cannon

Joanna Cannon

‘Breaking & Mending’ by Joanna Cannon

This book offers a frank, emotionally charged account of mental health from both sides of the spectrum – the patient and the doctor. 

A few years ago, I found myself in A&E.

I had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn’t eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains, listening to the rest of the hospital happen around me, and I shook with the effort of not crying. I was an inch away from defeat, from the acceptance of a failure I assumed would be inevitable, but I knew I had to carry on. I had to somehow walk through it.

Because I wasn’t the patient. I was the doctor.”

Psychiatrist and bestselling author of ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ and ‘Three Things About Elsie’, Joanna Cannon, gives a powerful, deeply moving and thought-provoking account of her early years as a junior doctor and her road into psychiatry. 

The book is an honest personal reflection of compassion, valuable learning and simmering anger in an industry where doctors work to heal, mend and ease suffering under strenuous conditions.

‘Breaking is accumulative. We collect small episodes of despair and unhappiness, our own Kodak moments, and we carry them with us until their weight becomes too much to bear and we fracture under the burden. Mending is exactly the same. The more often we witness small moments of compassion, the more humanity we see; and the more likely we are to be able to mend ourselves and the quicker we are to heal.’ (p. 156)

Cannon is a skilled storyteller and this is a poignant and thought-provoking medical memoir. It highlights the importance of talking about topics that make many uncomfortable such as death and mental illness. It underscores the stigma doctors face if they admit they are struggling to cope with the conditions under which they are required to work.

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