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Mac McClelland with Ashley Ford: Irritable Hearts
Feb 24, 2015 @ 7:00 pm| Free
When thirty-year-old, award-wining human rights journalist Mac McClelland left Haiti after reporting on the devastating earthquake of 2010, she never imagined how the assignment would irrevocably affect her own life. Back home in California, McClelland cannot stop reliving vivid scenes of violence. She is plagued by waking terrors, violent fantasies, and crippling emotional breakdowns. She can’t sleep or stop crying. Her life in shambles, it becomes clear that she is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her bewilderment about this sudden loss of control is magnified by the intensity of her feelings for Nico, a French soldier she met in Port-au-Prince and with whom she connected instantly and deeply.
With inspiring fearlessness, McClelland tackles perhaps her most harrowing assignment to date: investigating the damage in her own mind and repairing her broken psyche. She begins to probe the depths of her illness, exploring our culture’s history with PTSD, delving into the latest research by the country’s top scientists and therapists, and spending time with veterans and their families. McClelland discovers she is far from alone: while we frequently associate PTSD with wartime combat, it is more often caused by other manner of trauma and can even be contagious—close proximity to those afflicted can trigger its symptoms. As she confronts the realities of her diagnosis, she opens up to the love that seems to have found her at an inopportune moment.
Irritable Hearts is a searing, personal medical mystery that unfolds at a breakneck pace. But it is also a romance. McClelland fights desperately to repair her heart so that she can give it to the kind, patient, and compassionate man with whom she wants to share a life. Vivid, suspenseful, tender, and intimate, Irritable Hearts is a remarkable exploration of vulnerability and resilience, control and acceptance. It is a riveting and hopeful story of survival, strength, and love.
“Irritable Hearts is a powerful memoir about a young journalist’s painful battle with PTSD and her arduous road to recovery. But it is also a passionate and beautifully rendered love story. The way McClelland weaves together these two disparate tales makes this book a brilliant and captivating read.” —Mira Bartok, author of the New York Times bestsellerThe Memory Palace
“That we are as strong as we are frail is the most profound of many truths rising out of Mac McClelland’s astonishing Irritable Hearts. In her unforgettable memoir, McClelland begins to unravel her experience with PTSD while falling in love, traversing the globe and trying to understand both how the mind breaks and what it takes to heal in a world where all too often, we are constantly faced with how terribly vulnerable we are.” —Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author ofAn Untamed State and Bad Feminist
“There’s an easy way to ignore PSTD, and we’ve all heard it: you’ll never understand anyway. Well, Mac McClelland never takes the easy way out. Instead she writes with grace and wit, relating her extraordinary life experiences so eloquently that you can’t not understand her affliction. This is an important and brave book about an epidemic that everyone should read.” —Katie Crouch, bestselling author of Girls in Trucks and Abroad
“Mac McClelland is a ferociously talented journalist—and an exceptionally brave one—whose reporting from disaster areas and war zones have left her with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A work of astonishing emotional intensity, fierce intelligence, and soul-baring honesty, Irritable Heartschronicles McClelland’s searing battle with PTSD, evoking the symptoms of her disorder—the dissociation, the alternating rage and sadness and numbness, the urge toward self-harm and suicide—with immediacy and remarkable candor (most notably about the sexual fantasies and dysfunctions her PTSD causes). At once a memoir, a cockeyed romance, a reporter’s travelogue, and a clinical case study, Irritable Hearts will provide great consolation to others who suffer from PTSD—and McClelland’s resilience and determination will resonate powerfully even with those who don’t.” —Scott Stossel, author of the New York Times bestselling My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind
“McClelland’s story asked me to think more deeply about the tragedy of noncombatants in all the world’s harsh places and about the future of our own soldiers, who are still so poorly served after they return home. Which is worse: the physical loss of a limb, or the collapse of the essential mental comfort that allows a person to value being alive? A broken body can heal only when the mind has found some peace. So I hope thatIrritable Hearts will draw attention to PTSD in all its forms and wherever it occurs, and that McClelland will continue poking into those dark places from which the rest of us too easily recoil and turn away.” —Julie Metz, author of the New York Times bestseller Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal
Ashley Ford is a staff writer for Buzzfeed and was named one of their 30 under 30 of 2014. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently at work on a memoir.