Strangers to Ourselves is a compassionate, courageous and deeply researched look at the ways we talk about and understand ourselves in periods of crisis and distress. Drawing on conversations as well as unpublished journals and memoirs, it follows people who have found that psychiatric language has limitations when it comes to explaining who they are, or that a diagnosis, while giving their experience a name, creates a sense of a future life they wish to question or resist.
Rachel Aviv is known for her radical empathy: she excels at seeing the world through the eyes of her fellow human beings. Writing first about her own experience of being institutionalized at the age of six, she introduces, among others, a mother recovering from psychosis and rebuilding her relationship with her children; a woman who lives in healing temples in Kerala, where she is celebrated as a saint; and a young woman who, after a decade of defining herself through her diagnosis, decides to stop her medication because she doesn't know who she is without it.
Through startling connections, intimate testimonies and diverse cultural perspectives, Aviv opens up fresh ways of thinking about illness and the mind, in a book which is curious, transformative, and above all, profoundly human.