Review: Sharp by David Fitzpatrick

Posted September 5, 2012 by Heather in Book Reviews / 7 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher / TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Sharp by David FitzpatrickSharp: A Memoir by David Fitzpatrick
Published by William Morrow on August 21, 2012
Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368
Source: the publisher / TLC Book Tours

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In his early twenties, David Fitzpatrick began cutting himself with a razor blade. Self-mutilation provided a rush, a fleeting euphoric high missing from the rest of his life. For the next two decades, Fitzpatrick struggled to overcome this dangerous and bloody addiction, a difficult battle from which he would emerge spiritually renewed. Sharp is his disturbing, at times humorous, yet ultimately triumphant account of mental anguish and acceptance, of finding freedom and learning to let go.

This honest self-examination recalls Fitzpatrick's quest to understand the competing mental forces that prevented him from leading a normal life. It is also a tale of hope--a soul-baring quest of a lost man who successfully wrestles with the darkness to reclaim his life. As he shares his experiences, Fitzpatrick also credits the lessons learned from the broken people in his life--knowledge that led to his own emotional resurrection.

A universal story of highs and lows, love, and determination, Sharp reminds us that, no matter the odds, it is never too late to reclaim one's life.

(from the back cover)

**TRIGGER WARNING for people who self-harm: I’m not sure that I need to post a warning, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.**

Until I read David Fitzpatrick’s account in Sharp of what it is like to be a self-harmer, I never really understood how someone could do that to themselves (cutting, burning, etc). I am not good with pain at all, and I can’t imagine ever putting myself in pain on purpose. After reading this book, though, I understand it a bit better. Really, we can never truly understand what brings people to self-harm until we are in that situation, but I now have a much better idea. This is a really horrible addiction, and I can’t imagine feeling so awful about myself that I would be led to hurting myself repeatedly in order to feel better.

David starts his story with the mistreatment he received as a kid from his older brother. His brother was downright rotten to him, for no reason at all. David became very good at not fighting back–just letting it happen–because his brother wouldn’t attack him if he didn’t fight back. Later, as a college student, he went through another round of abuse from his college roommates, a bunch of guys who thought it was funny to make him the dumping grounds of their living quarters (quite literally). In the midst of this abuse, they would remind him how much they liked him and how they would always be there for him. Confusing as hell, right? How can anyone claim to be your friend, but treat you so horribly? Again, he didn’t fight back. Fitzpatrick doesn’t know exactly what brought him to the point of cutting himself for the first time. He and a girl he really cared about had just broken up (she broke up with him), but it was obvious that other things in his life had been building up for a long time. That’s the thing about mental illness, though…it’s hard (or impossible) to pinpoint exactly what starts one’s brain in that downward spiral. It could be any number of things, and there is eventually the straw that breaks the camel’s back (excuse the cliché). Then add addiction to that mix. Fitzpatrick let his cutting–and eventually, burning–addiction overcome him for twenty years, and was afraid to give it up, because he felt that his addiction defined him: “That was who I was–I had my illness and nothing else.” That is scary and heartbreaking.

Fitzpatrick’s writing isn’t the best, but that doesn’t matter here. It’s not meant to be pretty. What matters is that he wrote about his life and his illness to the best of his ability, and he was very honest and forthcoming. I felt absolutely helpless trying to put myself in his place; he seriously hurt himself numerous times, and sometimes I had to put the book down and walk away because I was getting nauseous and my chest was getting tight. Feeling that way just from reading about it, it was hard to wrap my head around how he must have been feeling while actually going through it. Fitzpatrick–and the friends he made along the way–survived (or didn’t survive, in some cases) an illness that I don’t think I would have survived. He was very lucky to have the money to afford good hospitals and good doctors. What about all of the people who aren’t so lucky? What about all of the people who are put in hospitals and forgotten about because they don’t have the means to get better help? I don’t know. Sharp made quite an impact on me, and I have a lot of respect for David for being able to write this book and send it out into the world. I hope that it makes just as much of an impact on other readers, too.

If you’re looking for a better understanding of the self-harm addiction…if you know someone who is self-harming…if you have had this addiction in the past, or if you are going through it now and would like to read about someone who has been there before you, I recommend David Fitzpatrick’s Sharp.

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