A memoir of great pathos and greater courage, LIVING WITH MR. FAHRENHEIT grabbed me from the very first page, blazing so hot I couldn’t look away despite the pain, relentless and brutal, recounted throughout the book. There is no happy ending. Not really. Just acceptance and grit. Real grit. Impressive grit.
When Lisa Beecher falls in love with fellow police officer, Jamie, she has no idea that the stresses of the job, combined with frustrating, undiagnosed learning disabilities, will eventually trigger Jamie’s latent bipolar disorder. By the time Jamie experiences his first psychotic break, the two first responders have been married for years. They are also the parents of two young children. Suddenly, out of nowhere it seems, the strong, handsome, and protective man she’d married turns into a stranger. He begins to hallucinate, to fight imaginary foes, and to become a danger to himself and others. Thrust into a situation she knows little about, Beecher navigates the mental healthcare system, advocates for her husband, solicits helps from caring friends and coworkers, continues her law enforcement work, parents the children, and makes the best of a bad situation.
I enjoyed the law enforcement anecdotes sprinkled throughout the story and came away feeling profoundly grateful for our police and other first responders. They take the brunt of society’s evil, shielding the rest of us from it, so we can live our lives in peace and comfort. We think we know how it is from watching television shows and films, but hearing just a few of these real-life police stories slammed home the truth: there’s a lot more bad going on out there than we realize. Our men and women in blue take on a great amount of stress for the rest of us, PTSD is not uncommon, and when you add mental illness to the mix, the results can be tragic.
Because of Lisa Beecher’s determination, love, and courage–grit–she was able to help her husband survive while building a successful career for herself and guiding her children into adulthood. The journey was perilous–and very compelling. There’s humor here, too. This well-written, harrowing, enlightening memoir deserves to be part of our societal conversation about mental health, law enforcement, and the intersection of the two.
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