Early in her career, Katie Pryal learned that being a professor isn’t easy if your brain isn’t quite right.
“I was a junior in college when I finally realized that I was different in a way that my medically inclined parents would call ‘clinical.’”
In these deeply personal, fiery essays, Pryal tells her story of transformation that began the moment she chose to publicly disclose her own mental illness and leave her career in higher education to begin fighting for a better world for people with psychiatric disabilities. The stories she tells are universal: the fear of stigma, the fight for accommodations, and the raw reality of living with mental illness in a world that pushes mental health to the margins.
People carelessly call each other “schizo” and “bipolar.” A colleague is fired for “instability.” Pryal learned that, as a psychiatrically disabled person working in higher education, her very livelihood could be stripped away by the groundless suspicions of others.
But the problem persists beyond academia.
With candor and grace, these essays discuss the disclosure of disabilities, accommodations and accessibility, how to be a good abled friend to a disabled person, the trigger warnings debate, and more. While harrowing at times, Pryal’s story is ultimately one of hope. With this memoir, she aims to make higher education—and all of our society—more humane.
Erica Sullivan is a professional actress of both stage and screen and holds her MFA from the Yale School of Drama. Currently a company member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, she has performed in New York and regionally with such companies as the Lincoln Center, Soho Repertory Theatre, and New Dramatists. She makes her home in Ashland, Oregon, with her family.