email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
A Mood ApartA Sadly Troubled HistoryActive Treatment of DepressionAdolescent DepressionAdult Bipolar DisordersAgainst DepressionAgents in My BrainAmerican ManiaAmerican MelancholyAn Unquiet MindArtificial HappinessBeating the BluesBefore ProzacBeyond BlueBiological UnhappinessBipolar DisorderBipolar Disorder DemystifiedBipolar Disorder in Childhood and Early AdolescenceBipolar DisordersBipolar ExpeditionsBlaming the BrainBoy InterruptedBritain on the CouchCalm EnergyCase Studies in DepressionChange Your ThinkingChronic DepressionComprehending SuicideConquering Postpartum DepressionConquering the Beast WithinCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamageDepressionDepressionDepression 101Depression and GlobalizationDepression and NarrativeDepression Doesn't Always Have to Be DepressingDepression FalloutDepression in ContextDepression Is a ChoiceDepression SourcebookDepression, Emotion and the SelfDepression, the Mood DiseaseDepression-Free for LifeDetourDiagnostic Issues in Depression and Generalized Anxiety DisorderDown Came the RainDowning Street BluesDysthymia and the Spectrum of Chronic DepressionsEight Stories UpElectroboyElectroshockEssential Psychopharmacology of Depression and Bipolar DisorderExperiences of DepressionFacing BipolarFast GirlFatal AttachmentsGetting Your Life BackGod HeadHandbook of DepressionHandbook of DepressionHello to All ThatHelping Students Overcome Depression and AnxietyHow Everyone Became DepressedHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHurry Down SunshineI am Not Sick I Don't Need Help!Journeys with the Black DogLeaving YouLet Them Eat ProzacLife InterruptedLifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues--Level 1LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues: Level 2Lifting DepressionLifting the WeightLincoln's MelancholyLiving Without Depression and Manic DepressionLong ShotLucy Sullivan Is Getting MarriedMadnessMaking Sense of SuicideMalignant SadnessManiaManicManic DepressionManufacturing DepressionMelancholiaMindfulness for Urban Depression: Tools for Relief from Stressful City LivingMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for DepressionMood GenesMoody Minds DistemperedMy DepressionNatural Healing for DepressionNew Hope for Children and Teens with Bipolar DisorderNew Hope For People With Bipolar DisorderNew Hope for People with DepressionNight Falls FastNovember of the SoulOn DepressionOn the Edge of DarknessOne in ThirteenOrdinarily WellOut of the BlueOutsmarting DepressionOvercoming DepressionPerfect ChaosPotatoes Not ProzacProzac and the New AntidepressantsProzac BacklashProzac HighwayProzac NationProzac NationPsychotic DepressionPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuiet Your Mind & Get to SleepRaising a Moody ChildReasons to Stay AliveScattershotSelf-CoachingSightlinesSilencing the Self Across CulturesSilent GriefSongs from the Black ChairSongs Without WordsSpeaking of SadnessSpontaneous HappinessStudent DepressionSubordination and DefeatSuicidal Behavior in Children and AdolescentsSuicideSunbathing in the RainSurvival Strategies for Parenting Children with Bipolar DisorderSurviving Manic DepressionSwing LowSylvia Plath ReadsTalking Back to ProzacTaming Your Inner BratThe Aesthetics of DisengagementThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Mood DisordersThe Anatomy of MelancholyThe Anti-Depressant Fact BookThe Antidepressant EraThe Antidepressant SolutionThe Antidepressant Survival ProgramThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Best AwfulThe Bipolar ChildThe Bipolar Disorder Survival GuideThe Blue Day BookThe Breakthrough Depression SolutionThe Clinical Science of Suicide PreventionThe CorrectionsThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Depressed ChildThe Depression CureThe Depression WorkbookThe Devil WithinThe Emotional RevolutionThe Family SilverThe Feeling Good HandbookThe Forgotten MournersThe Loss of SadnessThe Memory of LightThe Mindful Way through DepressionThe Mood CureThe Myth of Depression as DiseaseThe Naked Bird WatcherThe Nature of MelancholyThe Noonday DemonThe Pits and the PendulumThe Postpartum EffectThe Secret Strength of DepressionThe Van Gogh BluesThe Van Gogh BluesThe Weariness of the SelfThe Years of Silence are PastThirteen Reasons WhyThis Close to HappyTo Walk on EggshellsTreatment for Chronic DepressionUndercurrentsUnderstanding DepressionUnderstanding DepressionUndoing DepressionUnhappy TeenagersUnholy GhostUnstuckViniyoga Therapy for DepressionWhat Goes UpWhat the Birds SeeWhat Works for Bipolar KidsWhen a Parent is DepressedWhen Nothing Matters AnymoreWhen Someone You Love Is DepressedWhen Words Are Not EnoughWhen Your Body Gets the BluesWhere the Roots Reach for WaterWhy Are You So Sad?Why People Die by SuicideWill's ChoiceWriting Through the DarknessYou Are Not AloneZelda

Related Topics
To Walk on EggshellsReview - To Walk on Eggshells
by Jean Johnston
Cairn, 2005
Review by Tony O'Brien, RN, MPhil
Jul 18th 2006 (Volume 10, Issue 29)

To Walk on Eggshells is a companion volume to The Naked Bird Watcher, Suzy Johnston's autobiographical account of mental illness. Written by Suzy's mother Jean Johnston, To Walk on Eggshells tells Jean's story of her daughter's mental illness, and the family's struggle to cope with its devastating effects. It is a deeply personal story, written as a direct first person narrative. I read To Walk on Eggshells without the benefit of having read its predecessor, but there would clearly be benefits to reading the two volumes together.

The book is written in the form of a personal memoir, and seems crafted to appeal to parents of young people with mental illness, or to others who find themselves dealing with mental illness in the family. The author describes the onset of changes in behavior, initially unrecognized as mental illness, but which profoundly influenced the lives of both mother and daughter. Although short, at a mere 75 pages, the book ranges over a variety of issues that families affected by mental illness will recognize. Johnston has a lay audience in mind and does not wish them to become 'bogged down in heavy and painful reading'. She succeeds in the first objective. However, although Jean does not overstate the difficulties faced by a mother whose daughter's life is disintegrating, the pain is palpable. The memoir is both moving and absorbing. It is recommended reading for the parents of people with mental illness who want to know how it was for someone else in the same situation.

After some initial background chapter three begins: 'I knew something was wrong with our daughter'. This stark statement sets the tone for the following chapters, and for Jean's strongly subjective account of her experience. Readers are taken on a roller coaster tour of Jean's life as a mother coping with mental illness in a loved daughter: bewilderment at the unusual and disconcerting behaviors, the uncertainties of negotiating appropriate care, self-blame, feelings of 'uselessness' and especially the theme that gives the book its title, 'walking on eggshells'; in a nutshell, the tiptoeing around issues that parents dare not confront for fear of 'making things worse'. The language is refreshingly direct: 'God it is so tiring. You are literally living your life on a knife edge.'; 'The truth is that I think mental illness can be total shit.' This is no distant and detached account.

Johnston is an avowed non-expert ('I am no authority'), but one whose experience equips her to provide practical advice to parents and families: 'we would be wise to watch out for [signs of self harm]'. In sharing her experience as frankly as she does, Jean achieves something likely to elude a more comprehensive description.

Johnston is sympathetic to the work of mental health professionals, and she is optimistic about measures undertaken by the Scottish Government to address mental health concerns. There is none of the generalized lambasting of 'community care' which can make for tedious reading at times. But just as Johnston acknowledges the care provided by professionals, she is also forthright in noting that families do not always receive the services they need. She encourages carers to advocate for their needs and demand appropriate services.

Some readers might wish for more specific information. What was Suzy's diagnosis? What is the medication Jean thinks she may have to take for life? What are some of the strategies that have assisted Suzy's recovery? To Walk on Eggshells is a book with a modest but important objective: to engage its audience. It is the sort of book that will enable readers to identify with Jean, and to seek further for the support and information they need. One shortcoming is that the book does not provide contact details of where families or carers can access help. In chapter eight Johnston refers to some 'excellent service-user led [internet] sites' but, disappointingly, the addresses are not given. I can imagine that family members reading this book would like to see a list of support agencies or services for those with mental illness. However the book does contain the web address of the publisher, which in turn provides links to web resources.

To Walk on Eggshells is a warm and absorbing first person account that is a valuable resource for family members looking for someone who speaks to their experience; a fellow traveler on an anxious and uncertain road.


2006 Tony O'Brien


Tony O'Brien RN, MPhil, PhD candidate, Senior Lecturer, Mental Health Nursing, University of Auckland,


Welcome to Metapsychology. We feature over 8200 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716