I don’t know if I believe in God, but I do believe in Mark Lukach. Runner, surfer, academic, writer, lover of all things life — Lukach was all of these things when he met his current wife, Giulia, at a ripe 18 years old at Georgetown University. Lukach remained all of these things when he married Guilia, when they moved to the San Francisco Bay area, when they bought their dog “Goose” and when she fell into the first of three heartbreaking, terrifying psychotic breaks at the age of 27.
In his debut memoir, “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward,” Lukach shares the honest, raw love story between his wife and himself, one that holds shocking and understatedly life altering truth about the world of mental illness. In sharing the story of his place in his wife’s journey and his role as her caretaker, Lukach creates a stunning metaphor for the beauties of life, the reality of mental illness and the necessity of sacrifice for those we love. The core of the story follows Lukach through the hardest decade of his life, one in which his wife oscillated between home and the hospital, battling terrible bipolar disorder and depression. Throughout the course of this battle, the two have a child together, which adds an additional level of confusion and stress to their everyday life.
In Lukachs’s memoir, he shares the story of his wife’s battle with mental illness from his perspective — as the love of her life, caretaker and rock, sharing his journey through the darkest moments of both his wife’s life and their relationship. This perspective on a story that follows years of fighting an exhausting uphill battle offers the audience unique and dynamic insight on testing the strength of love, courage in the face of troubling adversity and how to fight for the people we hold close to our heart when they are in too vulnerable a position to fight for themselves.
Between many psychiatrists, social workers, three different psych wards, extended family overseas, countless prescriptions, the battles of the American mental health system and a young son, Lukach puts us in the middle of the story with him — in the hospital waiting room, on the beach, in his classroom at work, at their home, inside his mind. We are asked not to empathize or sympathize with his struggles, but to simply be there as he exonerates the long repressed emotion and fear he was rarely vulnerable enough to show at the time the majority of these events took place.
Lukach hands us a carbon copy of his tired yet beating heart between these pages. His vulnerability coupled with his strength in truly difficult times make for heartbreak in the most ingenuous of ways. His simple description of leaving his wife in the hospital, parting with the eyes of the love of his life from the other side of a glass window with the knowledge that she is simply a shell of who he knows her as, is at once both captivating and agonizing.
It is impossible to put these pieces of Lukach’s heart and mind down. He takes what he knows, what he doesn’t, what he is absolutely terrified of and what he loves more than anything in this world and shares it with us — hoping we take from his story a sliver of hope, a purpose as striking as a bolt of lightning and a sense that being alive should be celebrated every day.
When prompted with the question “Do you have any book recommendations now that I have more time to read?” that is so often shared among college students on break, I will be recommending “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward.” Whether or not you have time should be of no concern when deciding whether or not to invest in this story; its purpose meets its brilliance in a gorgeous internal monologue that is a summer necessity for readers and nonreaders alike.