I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers as part of their Legend100 Club in exchange for an honest review.
Struggling to cope with a tragic loss, Denis Murphy has learned to live a bit differently. Both his friends are use to it – the only problem is his monstrous housemates.
When his enigmatic ex-girlfriend comes back into this life, she threatens to shatter the finely crafted world around him.
As Denis begins to re-emerge from his sheltered existence and rediscover the person he used to be, things turn nasty, and he is forced to confront the demons that share not only his house, but also his head.
My, Myself and Them is a work of literary fiction all about mental health. Denis Murphy has a mental illness where he hears voices in his head that manifest themselves into entities before his very eyes. After a tragic incident during his early 20s, Denis has shut himself away in his mind where everything is safe and he can keep control of the world around him. However, when his ex-girlfriend returns from her travels, it throws Denis’s life askew as she inserts herself back into his life believing that she can help him overcome his issues.
I found it perfectly apt to have read this book during Mental Health Awareness week in May, and it was definitely an eye-opening and thought-provoking novel that shows the extremes mental illness can send a person into. I won’t deign to try and name Denis’s mental illness as I am fully aware that there are a variety of mental health issues that have similarities but, Denis’ mental health causes him to manifest his own personal demons into people that appear before his very eyes. No-one else can see these people, and it is clear that any events that happen as a result of these demons are purely Denis at his lowest points. As the novel progresses and you begin to fully understand Denis’ mental illness and why they are there, it becomes clear that each and every “demon” is a part of his personality that he has put behind him in order to live in this new, controlled environment. Plasterer is the sad, brutish man who likes to dominate and command those around him; the Professor is the articulated and knowledgeable demon who is a bit passed his time; Penny O’Neill is Denis’ more feminine side; and Deano is the voice inside his head that tells him it is alright to do things a bit differently. However, not only are they Denis’ personality, they hold similarities to the people around him and as changes are made in his life, the narrative makes these subtle hints.
I felt that this novel was very poignant in highlighting the importance of mental health and the way in which people react and deal with these issues. Denis’ friends Ollie and Frank use Denis’ illness as an inside joke, making light-hearted quips about his cleanliness, attention to detail, and control which, in his darkest moments, do truly hurt Denis and his demons. Rebecca, coming from the outside, is the person who, ultimately, helps Denis to realise that the old him is deep inside, hidden and locked away by these more dominating personalities that show through in his demons. Rebecca frequently reminds Denis that she is there for him, that nothing has changed but his outlook on life and that his way of dealing with grief, though different to those around him, is exactly that. In her bid to help Denis see the truth and realise that nothing is his fault, that he does not need to feel guilt about anything, Rebecca gets herself hurt in trying to understand why Denis is hurting himself and destroying everything, and every relationship around him, not fully understanding that it is the demons inside his head that cause him to act out in this way.
I couldn’t put down Me, Myself and Them as I was so intrigued by Denis and his progress in becoming the person he wanted to be. The novel also highlights how little people are aware of mental illness and those that are more hidden away inside of the mind, with all of the characters deeming him eccentric and weird – not taking in the full extent of what is going on behind closed doors. It is only when Denis reaches the lowest of the low and things are looking grim that action is taken and his friends and family begin to understand how badly Denis was affected by the events of his past. So many times Denis wanted to announce the truth to Rebecca, to reveal all about the demons that resided in his house and ran riot, but he could not for fear of how Rebecca would take that information, that she would stop loving him knowing how far he had fallen. This reminds us that people may be calling out for help in subtle and hard to explain ways and that we should be aware of these situations so that we can help them in their time of need.
Me, Myself and Them is a novel that should be high on everyone’s lists and is a great topic of conversation surrounding mental health. It is insightful, heart-breaking and, at times, hard to bear as you try to understand why Denis is this way without knowing the full reasoning behind what caused his mental health issues. I’m so glad I read this novel, as it wasn’t one I fully understood heading into it but it has really opened my eyes up to the more hidden forms of mental illness.