Ruth Poniarski set out to find the ideal friend and the perfect mate,
but what she encountered were spells of paranoia, extreme anxiety, and hallucinations.
Long Island native Ruth Poniarski’s first book, Journey of the Self: Memoir of an Artist, published by Charlotte, North Carolina-based Warren Publishing, is a stunning and unflinchingly honest memoir that challenges the stigma placed on mental illness. The book has received glowing reviews, including a Kirkus Star review.
It started as a college prank; a friend offered Ruth Poniarski a brownie that, unbeknownst to her, was laced with angel dust. What resulted was a debilitating accident, and the first of many mental breakdowns that spiraled into diagnoses of psychosis, schizophrenia, severe anxiety and bipolar disorder.
For years, Poniarski struggled to cope with her new reality as she undertook a rigorous architectural program, sought out new friends (and the perfect mate) and battled through the depths of mental illness. Her journey led her in all directions as she sought comfort, solace, stability and love.
Now an accomplished artist, Poniarski considers her memoir to be a portrait of sorts.
“This book, like many of my paintings, is about introspection,” she says. “So many of us, particularly when we’re young, seek definition through labels or through what others think of us. It’s so easy to say, ‘I have bipolar disorder, therefore, X,’ or, ‘So and so doesn’t love me the way I love him, therefore, Y.’ But none of that is who we truly are.”
The release of Poniarski’s memoir is particularly timely in light of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing orders.
“People were stuck at home for months or a year––or more. This kind of isolation forces a person to examine themselves; what makes them unique beyond who they are to society,” says Poniarski. “That kind of self-reflection allows us to become more available to others. You have to know yourself first.
“So, who am I?” Poniarski laughs. “Well … you’ll just have to read the book!”
For more information about Ruth Poniarski or her book, please visit: ruthponiarski.com.
After Poniarski inadvertently consumed PCP at a college party, she found herself consumed by the notion of an incoherent conspiracy involving socialists and alien craft-which she continued to have after the drug wore off. “My brain fed me lies,” she says of the experience, which caused her parents to put her under the care of a psychiatrist for the first time. Her memoir continues from this moment, recounting her tumultuous 20s during the late 1970s and early ’80s in New York City. Poniarski struggled to finish an architecture degree as she bounced from one program to another, unable to successfully finish courses and fearful that her peers might learn of her “psychotic side.” In a similar manner, she shuttled between her parents’ home on Long Island and apartments in Manhattan, her independence constantly jeopardized by paranoid thoughts and mistrust of roommates and friends. Most poignant, however, is Poniarski’s account of search for a suitable romantic partner. As she struggles with shame about her sexual feelings, she finds herself drawn to various lovers who each reject her, which only fuels her desire to break out of a lonely existence. Poniarski tells a story with heavy themes, but her prose remains graceful throughout. As she recounts outrageous thoughts and actions, she does so in a manner that not only gets across her distorted view of reality, but also the very real emotions she felt; at one point, for instance, she tells of slapping a man on an airplane after falsely thinking that he was making fun of her. In her fractured accounts of exchanges with colleagues, friends, and lovers, Poniarski also offers clever insights into sexism, the high expectations of her affluent Jewish community, and changing attitudes toward mental health. –Kirkus Reviews