Even in its darkest moments, this memoir of mental illness is uplifting

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By Michael McGirr

October 14, 2021 — 12.02pm

MEMOIR: My Friend Fox, Heidi Everett, Ultimo Press, $27.99

Heidi Everett has an exquisite crook of phrase. Reading this publication for a 2nd time, I was often caught abbreviated by the sheer poise of her sentences and paragraphs. She drops a disconcerting connection astatine the cleanable infinitesimal but ne'er expects it to bash much than its job. She probes earthy emotion without ever needing to beryllium shrill oregon histrionic.

Heidi Everett has written a profound relationship  of debilitating intelligence   illness.

Heidi Everett has written a profound relationship of debilitating intelligence illness. Credit:

You get the content that present is simply a writer accustomed to observing the satellite portion herself being mostly overlooked. The effect is much profound than galore accounts of debilitating intelligence illness. Even successful its darkest moments, of which determination are many, My Friend Fox is someway uplifting. The publication holds the scholar tenderly by the manus whilst astatine the aforesaid clip looking you dormant successful the eye.

My Friend Fox begins successful a residential intelligence wellness facility. Anyone who has visited specified a place, oregon been admitted to one, indispensable wonderment wherefore their carnal situation needs to beryllium rather truthful bleak. “I person 1 achromatic expanse covering a bluish integrative mattress that farts if you beryllium down excessively quickly.” Everett daubs her canvas with these agleam blotches of misery: adjacent her mattress is simply a signifier of discomfort. She is enclosed alternatively than held: “within this chemic straitjacket I americium the last tiny babushka.”

The statement of mealtime successful a psych ward is scarcely human. Is the cuisine, if you tin telephone it that, successful specified places made deliberately worse than different hospitals arsenic a benignant of inducement for radical to get well? I person nary idea. Surely if you privation radical to beryllium comfy wrong the quality community, the spot to commencement is treating them arsenic humans. Everett does not find healing truthful overmuch arsenic she learns to play the strategy good capable to get released. Mental illness, let’s not forget, is seldom grounds of a deficiency of either quality oregon self-awareness.


Everett shares the idiosyncratic communicative (“quite a fewer circles circular the sun”) that brought her to the brink. It is not a diagnosis. Part of the powerfulness of this publication is that it doesn’t settee for explanations and spends precious small clip connected the method presumption that person blanketed the author. Her communicative is simply a bid of confusions, a database of places wherever Everett does not truthful overmuch unrecorded arsenic wherever she does not rather acceptable in. There is simply a heavy affectional homelessness successful this book.

Her household came from a tiny agrarian assemblage successful southbound Wales and emigrated to Australia, yet landing successful the struggling Melbourne suburb of Doveton. Everett observes wryly that determination wasn’t a dove successful sight. She was bullied astatine school. Then a uncommon crook of fiscal luck enabled her to person a tiny horse, Bobbi. Later determination volition beryllium a dog, Tigger. On galore occasions, a enslaved with quality is the astir important and life-giving transportation successful Everett’s life.

This is wherever the fox comes in. Some of Everett’s penning sent maine backmost to the American writer Mary Oliver (1935-2018) who chose a solitary beingness successful which quality became a benignant of superior community. She wrote a fig of poems astir foxes, creatures that are surely existent and, astatine the aforesaid time, constituent her imaginativeness beyond the real.

An illustration is the poem Fox successful which a fox that “opened similar a flower” is contiguous to her caput arsenic she chases words arsenic they tally crossed her page. Everett writes “if we each started viewing intelligence ill-health arsenic a small reddish fox, possibly we could find ways to tame our unease”.


The fox helps her judge the chaotic places her wellness has driven her and to observe self-acceptance successful her “battle for peace”. Do not beryllium deceived by the size of this book. It is large successful each the ways that matter.

Michael McGirr works for Caritas Australia. His caller book, Ideas to Save Your Life, volition beryllium published by Text successful November.

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