If Stephanie Schroeder’s name looks familiar to you, then you might have seen her work in Curve, where she is a contributing editor; SheWired.com; or right here in GO. Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide (published by Creative Evolution) is the prolific journalist’s first book, a memoir about bipolar disorder, domestic violence, Tourette’s syndrome and parenthood.
In the early 90s, when Schroeder was in her 20s, she met a girl she dubs “Lauren Renoir.” Renoir is a psychiatrist who’s ironically got plenty of mental health issues of her own. She’s bossy, pushing Schroeder to go back to college and then law school. She’s closeted, going so far as to ignore her mother, brother and stepfather when she’s out with Schroeder at a restaurant. And she’s possessive: “She didn’t like me to do anything that excluded her and that included reading, listening to music with headphones or spending time writing at the computer keyboard,” Schroeder recalls. “Going out on my own was out of the question.”
As the years go by, Schroeder becomes increasingly depressed, due to both her life circumstances and her bipolar disorder, and yet instead of feeling sympathy for her, Renoir gets pregnant right after Schroeder tells her she’s not ready, adding more stress to an already stressful situation. Soon Renoir becomes physically abusive and by 2000, Schroeder is contemplating suicide, as she says, “more seriously than I ever had before.” It will be years before Schroeder can find her way back to normal.
In Beautiful Wreck, Schroeder proves she is intelligent, funny and brave. Hers is a particularly important story because it discusses lesbian domestic violence, a topic not typically addressed by the media. One only wishes Schroeder devoted a little more space to the bipolar and Tourette’s experiences. Yet, this is a highly engrossing read that will inspire anyone who has ever struggled with mental illness or crazy lovers. In other words, almost everybody.