March 21, 2022

Sarah Fay

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes acclaimed writer and editor SARAH FAY for a discussion of her book Pathological: The True Story of Six Misdiagnoses. She will be joined in conversation by LESLIE JAMISON, author of The Empathy Exams and The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath.


Over the course of twenty-five years, doctors diagnosed Sarah Fay with six different conditions--anorexia, major depressive disorder (MDD), anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and bipolar disorder. Pathological is the gripping story of the factors that led to those diagnoses, and the impact each had on her life. But it is also a rigorously researched investigation into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)--psychiatry's "bible," the manual from which all mental illness diagnoses come. Yet as Sarah found out, this revered standard is fiction.

Fay contemplates what it means to live with mental illness and what it has meant for her life, and for many others in similar circumstances. So many people have been misdiagnosed and over-diagnosed with multiple (sometimes competing) conditions, causing massive confusion, immense anguish, and unnecessary suffering. As Fay learned, with knowledge comes the ability to understand what invented terms like "clinical depression" or "anxiety disorder" or "bipolar disorder" or any other DSM diagnosis really means.

In telling her story, Sarah uses a surprising literary device, a fresh and entertaining survey of the rules and history of punctuation, to illuminate how, like pathology, punctuation orders and categorizes, and tries to make sense of what's otherwise disordered.

About Author(s)

Sarah Fay’s writing appears in many publications, including LongreadsThe New York TimesThe AtlanticTime Magazine, and The Paris Review, where she served as an advisory editor. Her essays have been nominated for Best American Essays and a Pushcart Prize. She is the recipient of the Hopwood Award for Literature and currently teaches in the English departments at DePaul University and Northwestern University.

Leslie Jamison is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Recovering and The Empathy Exams, and the novel The Gin Closet. She is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, and her work has appeared in publications including the AtlanticHarper's, the New York Times Book Review, the Oxford American, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. She directs the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her family.