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Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  718 ratings  ·  134 reviews
"Irritable Hearts striking candor will win McClelland the empathy she deserves." - The New York Times Book Review

A Buzzfeed Best Nonfiction Book of 2015

"I had nightmares, flashbacks. I dissociated... Changes in self-perception and hallucinations-those are some of my other symptoms. You are poison, I chanted silently to myself. And your poison is contagious."
So begins M
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 24th 2015 by Flatiron Books (first published February 1st 2015)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This review might come off as self-serving. Reading this book was, for me, incredibly necessary. I have PTSD due to Military Sexual Trauma. I have had my diagnosis for 10 years, though the trauma occured nearly 17 years ago. Reading Mac McClelland's words, I found myself saying, either quietly to myself or out loud, on nearly every page, "This is every day of my life. Someone understands."

Never have I seen a more accurate depiction of what I go through daily. I kept having to read passages to m
Dec 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir
I really wanted to like this book but reviewing this book was a difficult task. On the positive side I admired the author's writing and her raw openness about her condition and its effect upon her life. However, I couldn't help but question her credibility. Being somewhat familiar with her work, I found it very hard to understand how she was dissociating and crying maniacally and at the same time going undercover to write a piece about working in an Amazon warehouse. In addition, she starts the ...more
Regular people, whether they realize it or not, walk around believing, as you cannot make your way in the world without believing, that the universe is holding them.

Well, the people on our side of the line thought, the fuck it does.

^ Only how I have felt my entire life, NBD. In reading other reviews of this book. I think interpreting this as a work of literature is missing the point, because what is happening here is an attempt to advance and normalize the experience of trauma response and PTSD.
I don't really think my rating on this book is fair. The rating and my enjoyment of the book were completely colored by my work. I spend the majority of each day in session with children and families who have experienced horrors. Many of them are struggling with PTSD because of it. This is a hard book to read for anyone (hard for me because I consider reading an escape and this one just had me diving deeper into the reality of life for so many people with whom I work) but if you're looking to be ...more
Great book. Important book. A "thank you for writing this" sort of book.

McClelland is a journalist who experienced trauma while reporting in Haiti, and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. This book is a first-person memoir of the experience of having and healing PTSD, girded by research and resources on the science, psychology, and impact of PTSD in the world and how to heal it.

McClelland masters a delicate balance between wrenching, deeply personal experience and sit
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book in so many ways, not least of all because it takes you right into the heart and mind of someone with PTSD, a set of symptoms both behavioural and psychological, very complex, and very confusing not only to those who suffer them, but also to those who walk alongside those who experience them.

What matters here the most, in my opinion, is that Mac McClelland is not only someone who has experienced trauma and the consequences of it, but that she is a VERY capable writer. Her
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've seen a lot of negative things said about this book, but after having read I just can't think we were reading the same book. All the negative comments were pretty much about the same thing, disbelief that what the author went through could cause PTSD or that the author was narcissistic. I just don't get that. The book is a serious opening to a much broader discussion about PTSD and all that we don't know about it. Trauma and trying to cope, it's both highly personal and not and is ongoing de ...more
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: rumpus-book-club
I don't want to trivialize what this writer went through, but I think she was still too close to tell this story. I heard Cheryl Strayed say recently that her husband told her for years to write about the hike that later became 'Wild' but she kept telling him there she didn't know what the story to tell was. It too her 15 years of reflection before she did. I think this writer and this book would have benefited from the same kind of reflection and distance. It felt very scattered to me. It wasn' ...more
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
(I feel a weird ethical obligation to say that I kinda know the author, or at least I used to IRL. We worked together for a few years (where she worked while doing the reporting she writes of here) and were union officers at that job together, because we're both awesome nerds like that.)

I'm pretty sure this is a book that will divide people, where a lot of people will love it to pieces, a lot will hate it all to hell, and a few in the middle will back away slowly from all of us.

Personally...I l
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
As the book synopsis says, McClelland suffered PTSD after witnessing some horrible things as a journalist in post-earthquake Haiti. The book is mostly about her symptoms and her treatment and is also partly about saying "I told you so" to the people who didn't believe she had suffered anything traumatic.

I felt terrible for McClelland. It's clear that the after-effects of her trauma were far-reaching. She also makes it clear that this could happen to anyone, giving examples of PTSD diagnosed in s
I loved Irritable Hearts. Mac McClelland has written a raw memoir of her experience with PTSD. Apparently it is a contentious book, harshly criticized by those who need the "true crime" version of details as "proof" of McClelland's story. For me, however, the "proof" IS the story, the reactions, the grief, the searching for answers, the disbelief that one's person could betray oneself so terribly, the awful reality of PTSD. PTSD is difficult to understand, for those who have never encountered it ...more
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
"There's a weird but common misperception about how trauma works that was illustrated by the fight they were having - that trauma exists only in the realm of those who have it worse than anyone else in the world. I myself held this misperception, the way I'd argued with Meredith that it was impossible for me to be traumatized. First, I hadn't suffered anything serious. Second, the circumstances of my life generally caused me little suffering. I was in the bottom of the right-to-suffer caste s
May 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: recently-read
After starting this book nearly two months ago, I finally finished the other eve. I had to take a break and put it down for a while as I found the author to be somewhat self-absorbed, rambling and a bit dramatic for my taste.
Mac McClelland was diagnosed with Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder after a trip to Haiti to report on an earthquake and its devastating effects. She suffered from dissociation, rage, sadness, depression, suicidal tendencies, addiction. Ms. McClelland is a good story- teller
Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story by Mac McClelland (Memoir)
This is a remarkable book for several reasons. First, Mac McClelland is an excellent writer and pulls the reader right into her story. Second, McClelland very bravely shares her own worst moments as well as some of her best times. Third, she delves deeply into the causes, symptoms, and effects of Post- Traumatic Stress Syndrome in a way that is both highly readable and easily understood by a non-psychologist lay person.
Mac McClelland
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-2018
This is an important book because it describes trauma as something in the eye of the beholder. What traumatizes one person may not traumatize another. The type or "quality" or force of the trauma does not decide whether it will induce PTSD. I think everyone should read McClelland's compassionate description of people who are in pain from an unseen source combined with the statistics that these people are a shockingly larger percentage of the population.

As a PTSD survivor, parts of this book wer
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
I like and respect Mac McClelland as a journalist; I remember when she wrote her first article about developing PTSD after reporting in Haiti (which is partly incoporated into this memoir) and got so much nasty backlash from people who somehow didn't feel that she'd "earned" PTSD or something? UGH.

I loved her honesty about her trauma and all the ways she worked through it, as well as her information about other PTSD patients (interviews and outreach with veterans, spouses of veterans, etc). And
Feb 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
I try to make it my goal to finish every book I begin to read. I couldn't even finish the book, it was THAT terrible. The author is very narcissistic. I don't know what to say other than this is a terrible read.
Mar 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: love, memoir-bio
I don't mean to minimize what the author went through, but I can't believe her story was published as is. Here's my review, in alphabetical order: Hot Mess, Nightmare, Trainwreck.
Alex Linschoten
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: therapy, health
Just as good as the first time I read it.
Jay Klyman
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a survivor of PTSD I found this book incredibly engaging and accurate. Smattered with statistics that are earth shatteringly important. I devoured this book and can't wait to read more of their work!
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, ebooks
Described by SheSource as "the rising star of progressive media" journalist Mac McClelland presents her compelling deeply intense memoir: "Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story" (2015). The book begins when she was assigned to report on the 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti, shocked at the tremendous violence and rape of Haitian women, she suffered a mental breakdown and fled the country. This is her startling account of her PTSD diagnosis, the challenging road toward recovery, and the loving supp ...more
Sherry Royer
Apr 09, 2015 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book about a journalist's struggle with PTSD after a harrowing experience (several, as it turns out). I'm a licensed clinical social worker and have some training in the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD, and I appreciated the author's deep research into this often-misunderstood condition. She deserves much credit for her research, discussions, and insight into the signs, symptoms, and effects of the disorder. Her writing regarding the families she interviewed in the course o ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book took me a while to read. I think the writer is sharing a real ptsd experience but I didn't really enjoy reading it. I did however love her one night stand/boyfriend/husband Nico. He's amazing and supportive. He starts out as just a guy she has sex with when she is healthy and he falls in love with her immediately and continues to love her despite her getting (secondary?) ptsd and him dealing with all the fallout from her life. AND he stays by her and supports her through everything eve ...more
Michelle Gragg
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: rumpus
I really wanted to love this book. It addresses such an important topic from such a unique way. But the writing is so hard to get through. This book only spans 4 maybe 5 years but the author constantly switches from past to present to omnicient future tenses. Which jumbles the writing and confuses the reader. She references "years later" so many times you think it must have been a decades long process. Also, it is clear that this book was rushed, that it was so important a topic that she had to ...more
Candace Marie
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'll be honest. I wanted to like this book.
As a survivor and advocate for those with PTSD speaking up and speaking out about their experiences with the devastating illness, I really, truly wanted to like this book that I randomly picked up at the library on a whim.
I read several of the reviews before hand, which seem to be mixed. Some people are keen on it, some people can't choke it down. Some even say that the reason other people hate it is because they found themselves uncomfortable with the
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
I enjoy the author's magazine work, and I find this to be an interesting topic, but damn this was a difficult read. Not difficult in the sense that I was bothered by the subject matter, like a millennial college student, but difficult in the sense that it seemed to take forever and I couldn't wait for it to be over.

The author does deserve some credit for her sheer candor. There's a lot of weird sex stuff in this, a lot of really inexcusable behavior most people would never admit to, and she put
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is written by an author who witnesses a brutal attack while covering a news story in Haiti. It, along with other events in her life starts her long struggle with PTSD which triggers bouts alcohol abuse and desire for abusive sex. She has done a lot of research on the topic and the book would be helpful to anyone who suffers from PTSD or is a family member of a person that does. Through it all she maintains a love with an understanding partner.
Laura Anne
Let me be forward.
I have PTSD. It is horrible. But it stems from my experience not seeing something awful happen to someone else.
I tried really hard not to judge this woman but I couldn't even finish the book it just made me angry that she could be so incredibly self centered. Hey while we're at it the premise of this book is ridiculous.
PTSD is a relationship ender. I should know. You can't try to fix your PTSD to save a relationship. You have to fix your PTSD to save yourself.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
i liked the author's honesty and willingness to share uncomfortable parts of herself. this book also inspired me to stop trauma-shaming myself. it pointed out that usually the people who make you feel like your trauma "wasn't bad enough" are usually not people who are dealing with the lingering aftereffects of trauma, and how trauma survivors usually police ourselves but don't police each other. that was simple but helpful to read.
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Absolutely fascinating, uncomfortable, and moving. At times I caught myself thinking judgmentally of the author, even as she discussed the societal attitudes that make PTSD so difficult to identify, acknowledge, and treat. Impressed by her openness and ruthless self-appraisal that never feels gratuitous, but is well-integrated with her reporting of the larger issue.
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Mac has reported from locations including Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, Micronesia, Burma, New Orleans, and Bhutan on subjects such as the hot young Bhutanese king, Post-Katrina recovery efforts, South Pacific conservation initiatives, being embedded in dumpster-diving culture, posing as a high-class freelance call girl, and the decline of American manufacturing. More important, she is, according ...more

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“A lot of people don’t heal, and it manifests in a lot of different ways throughout their lives,” she said once. “Because when trauma doesn’t get to work itself through your system, your system idles at a heightened state, and so getting more really intense input calms your system down.” Which is why, Meredith said, “A lot of folks who’ve survived trauma end up being really calm in crisis and freaking out in everyday life.” 8 likes
“the post-traumatic-stress-disordered often vacillate between phases of symptoms, moving from intrusion—the crying and howling nightmares and other asylum-worthy behaviors—to constriction and back, without predictability or reason. It’s one of the many things that undermine their credibility with the outside world: People seem fine for a while, but then they’re not fine, or they go from one extreme set of symptoms to an opposite one.” 5 likes
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