Stories of unhealthy coping
June 19, 2017 6:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for written stories about people coping with grief or trauma in unhealthy ways. Non-fiction preferred (first-person essays or memoirs especially) but a good fictional tale might be useful, too. What's out there?
posted by Pater Aletheias to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Amy Hempel's The Most Girl Part of You is about a kid dealing with the immediate aftermath of his mother's suicide.
posted by thursdaystoo at 6:51 AM on June 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

It's not the main point of the story, but in The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel, the protagonist in the first section copes with the loss of his wife and son by walking everywhere backwards. In the third section, the protagonist copes with the loss of his wife by buying a chimpanzee.. though the chimpanzee does end up being a good influence, so not the healthiest life choice, but it works out well.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:06 AM on June 19, 2017

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
posted by hepta at 7:10 AM on June 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

Nick Hornby's High Fidelity (book & film) is a very readable/watchable romantic comedy from the perspective of a music nerd guy whose girlfriend breaks up with him, so, feeling wounded (which I think sort of counts as grief), he reconnects with every woman he's ever loved. Later in the story his ex-girlfriend has an experience involving more traditional grief, and there are a couple scenes showing her not-super-healthy reactions to it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:16 AM on June 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Geneen Roth's Lost and Found chronicles life in the wake of losing their entire life savings to Madoff. Many of their friends were also invested with Madoff, so she found a huge range of experiences in how everyone reacted to the crisis. I found it fascinating.
posted by anderjen at 7:23 AM on June 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

H is for Hawk. "Father dies, become a recluse with a bird of prey, project intensely onto that bird of prey and also TH White" is not the traditional trajectory, but...
posted by peppercorn at 7:28 AM on June 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

Journalist Mac McClelland alleviated trauma from witnessing sexual violence in Haiti by staging her own violent sexual assault. Here's her first-person essay, and here's an article summarizing it.
posted by ejs at 7:50 AM on June 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cheryl Strayed's essay The Love of My Life is about how she reacted to her mother's death by cheating on her husband repeatedly.
posted by attentionplease at 7:53 AM on June 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

Hilary Mantel wrote a piece with the amazing title Some Girls Want Out, about the constructed sufferings of some recent saints, partially as a response to trauma.
posted by praemunire at 8:21 AM on June 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

[Warning: disturbing/graphic subject matter]

The first thing that came to mind for me was conspiracy theorists--people who turn to beliefs in conspiracies to explain and face tragedies. I don't really have an outstanding recommendation but just found this longform article: The Sandy Hook Hoax from New York Magazine. One section describes one of the chief proponents of the conspiracy theory who got into conspiracy theories after job loss, medical injuries, etc. (...though, in contrast, the father of one of the child victims stopped being a conspiracy theorist after the attack).

The other category that came to mind was parents of victims of crimes, accidents, or disasters. Again, I don't have a go-to memoir but some cases have gained notoriety partly for the behavior or statements of the surviving family members after the tragedy, such as Noreen Gosch or the family of Kendrick Johnson. There was also a plane crash case where someone responded in extreme ways: Father of air-crash victims guilty of revenge killing. (Independent article)
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 8:37 AM on June 19, 2017

Break All The Way Down By Roxane Gay is a story about a woman who copes with a devastating situation (I don't want to spoil the story) by finding a violent boyfriend.

Her memoir Hunger is nonfiction and is about her coping by eating and gaining weight after being gang raped.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 8:38 AM on June 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Kiss: a Memoir by Kathryn Harrison is the memoir of a woman who copes with her narcissistic mother and her father's being absent for years by sleeping with said father once she sees him again in college.
posted by Crystal Fox at 8:46 AM on June 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

A Rose For Emily, while fiction, is a superb dysfunction
posted by Jacen at 9:14 AM on June 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I'd say there were some pretty unhealthy coping skills going on there for a few years.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:33 AM on June 19, 2017

"Drinking" by Caroline Knapp chronicles her experiences using alcohol to get through a career in journalism. She also wrote in "Appetites" about her experiences with anorexia and how disordered eating played a role in her coping with life as a (successful) woman.
posted by stillmoving at 9:55 AM on June 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley. The narrator deals with the grief of his beloved dachshund's terminal cancer and approaching death by plunging into deep denial and constructing an elaborate delusional narrative around battling the tumour (the eponymous octopus).
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 10:32 AM on June 19, 2017

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
posted by chocolatetiara at 6:30 PM on June 19, 2017

Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blue.
posted by Shusha at 7:02 PM on June 19, 2017

Not sure if this is what you're after, but The Catcher In The Rye springs to mind.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:38 PM on June 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Augusten Burroughs has written multiple memoirs in this vein.
posted by gennessee at 9:22 PM on June 19, 2017

The Pugilist at Rest, Thom Jones

it's a collection of short fiction. the story that it's titled after, jesus, the heartbreak.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:19 AM on June 20, 2017

Sockin'inthefreeworld: "The first thing that came to mind for me was conspiracy theorists--people who turn to beliefs in conspiracies to explain and face tragedies."

This prompted a memory of a scene from West Wing where we learn that a son (played by Sam Lloyd, better known as Ted on Scrubs) picked up his conspiracy theory opinions as almost a sort of a tribute to his father, who held the same opinions.
posted by WCityMike at 3:01 PM on June 20, 2017

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