Book Review – Girl in Need of a Tourniquet by Merri Lisa Johnson

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A memoir of a Borderline Personality.

I’m sure it is obvious to my regular readers why I would chose to read this book.

Girl in need of a Tourniquet is the personal memoirs of Merri Lisa Johnson, or Lisa as she refers to herself within the pages, and how she came to discover and live with having Borderline Personality Disorder.

It’s funny how getting a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder leads to an intense heavy duty research fest. Maybe it is something to do with the lack of support following the diagnosis, I don’t really know but I had always suspected I was not alone in running out and buying every book I can find about the condition after my diagnosis and this book contains so much evidence that this is a natural reaction that it is reassuring.

Lisa, starts her story in 1994 when she graduated from college and begins with relating to the emotions that she believes must have been experienced by Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes during the celebrity’s very public breakdown in which she burnt a house down.

Married at 19, divorced at 20 and then discovering that her sexual preference was actually as a lesbian before the ultimate revelation of Borderline Personality Disorder; Lisa takes us on a journey through her turbulent mind and life as she struggles to discover who she is, what she wants from life and ultimately to ‘recover’ from BPD. Juggling relationships, affairs, work and therapy the strength of character that the emotionally unstable borderline somehow manages to hold on to shines through as a roaring example of the high intelligence and functionality that we often hold up whilst masking the inner devastation of a dying soul – no wonder most people don’t notice we are broken if this is how we show ourselves in public!

So much of what she portrays can be related to your own distorted impressions of life (if you have BPD). Issues of attachment, splitting, emotional dysregulation, self-harm and dissociation are amongst the elements of BPD that Lisa brings to life in full colour.

From the very beginning the memoir is punctuated with quotes from other books about BPD and journals, songs and other interesting sources, a full bibliography of the sources is given at the end of the book – a great reference list for further reading often amiss in this kind of book. The use of quotations and lyrics was very helpful to me as I often have a habit of relating my feelings and emotions to song lyrics that seem to ‘say’ what I could not put into words for myself and in this book they seem to do a similar thing – giving voice to the things that would be difficult to articulate personally.

Even the layout of the book helps it become a reader friendly experience, plenty of white space, subtly different fonts to separate other thoughts and interjections from the main storyline and the use of slash like lines to break up sections within chapters. I found the book to be a quick and easy read with a fast flowing narrative.

The use of celebrity, media and literary portraits help you to identify with the reality of Lisa’s story and understand her thought processes and experiences in a vivid, exciting way.

Even the process of writing the book features as a symptom of her Borderline Personality as Lisa struggles to gain order over the words and make sense of what she is trying to say to us.

I would highly recommend this book to Borderlines and people who love, live with, work with or care for a Borderline in their lives, as it really does give a helpful insight into the chaotic workings of our minds.

In closing a few of my favourite lines and quotes from the book…

A Borderline suffers a kind of emotional hemophilia; she lacks the clotting mechanism needed to moderate her spurts of feeling. Stimulate a passion, and the borderline emotionally bleeds to death ~ source: Jerold Kreisman and Hal Straus, I hate You, Don’t Leave Me: Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder.

I make up for being borderline by reading fat books with hard words. I want to understand everything about borderline personality disorder. I want to be the best borderline personality ever. I want to be AMAZING ~ source: Merri Lisa Johnson, Girl in Need of a Tourniquet: A memoir of a borderline personality.

The book was not a book but a symptom. My words came out in the wrong dis/order. I couldn’t make it write. ~ source: Merri Lisa Johnson, Girl in Need of a Tourniquet: A memoir of a borderline personality.

And finally the song that inspired the title of the book ‘Save me’ by Aimee Mann featuring the lyric ‘…Girl in need of a tourniquet’


10 comments on “Book Review – Girl in Need of a Tourniquet by Merri Lisa Johnson

  1. Thank you for the excellent review–I hadn’t heard of this book but now I will definitely go looking for it!! 🙂

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