Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks

Great book. I can't recommend it more highly. It's so refreshing to read about a person diagnosed with schizophrenia who goes on to have a successful and fulfilling life. One of my favorite passages:
Psychotic people who are paranoid do scary things because they are scared. And when you're both psychotic and paranoid, it's like that sweaty midnight moment when you sit bolt upright in your bed from a nightmare that you don't yet know isn't real. But this nightmare went on all through the daylight as well.
Here is a link to a review in the San Francisco Chronicle.


Saks was only eight, and living an otherwise idyllic childhood in sunny 1960s Miami, when her first symptoms appeared in the form of obsessions and night terrors. But it was not until she reached Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar that her first full-blown episode, complete with voices in her head and terrifying suicidal fantasies, forced her into a psychiatric hospital.

Saks would later attend Yale Law School where one night, during her first term, she had a breakdown that left her singing on the roof of the law school library at midnight. She was taken to the emergency room, force-fed antipsychotic medication, and tied hand-and-foot to the cold metal of a hospital bed. She spent the next five months in a psychiatric ward.

So began Saks's long war with her own internal demons and the equally powerful forces of stigma. Today she is a chaired professor of law who researches and writes about the rights of the mentally ill. She is married to a wonderful man.

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