Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chairperson

Jacqueline Alnes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maureen McVeigh Trainor, M.F.A.

Committee Member

Nancy Pearson, M.F.A.


What is the meaning of mental illness? Madness? Insanity? Who decides? What effect does a mental health crisis have on a long-term, cohabitating, committed, romantic relationship such as marriage? How can society organize to better support the whole lives of members with mental illness and their loved ones without infringing on rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Things We Don’t Talk About is an experimental braided memoir that explores these questions and more by recalling a crisis point in a marriage: four days of mandatory hold in a psychiatric unit following the persona’s suicide attempt in her home during the summer of 2013. This thread describes the persona’s confinement, interactions with staff and other patients, aka “fellow inmates,” feelings of isolation and helplessness, and the ways in which places intended for healing can instead become tools of harm.

This project touches on themes of isolation; the stigma of mental illness; mental healthcare in the United States; questions of consent in healthcare, romance, and sex; marriage and both monogamous and non-monogamous romantic connections; and, the lengths we go to survive, and sometimes thrive within, the systems in which we find ourselves by chance or by choice. The pages presented here are a beginning; a complete memoir will continue past resolution of the immediate crisis, through a decade of recovery and self-discovery, and into the current moment.

Available for download on Tuesday, April 18, 2124