I recently read Elyn Saks personal account of her life with schizophrenia (<em>The Center Cannot Hold</em>, Hyperion:New York) and found it to be enlightening, frequently almost painful to read, and at the same time heartening, and hopeful. Her lucid, blunt descriptions of her illness has further amplified my personal motivation (which was already pretty high!) to work still harder to develop strategies designed to prevent and treat this devastating illness.
To quote a brilliant, illustrative passage, wonderfully summarizing the neuropathology of this disease:
<em>”Consciousness gradually loses its coherence. One’s center gives way. <strong>The center cannot hold.</strong> The “me” becomes a haze…. There is no longer a sturdy vantage point from which to look out, take things in, assess what’s happening… Sights, sounds, thoughts, and feelings don’t go together. No organizing principle takes successive moments in time and puts them together in a coherent way from which sense can be made.”</em>
Elyn Saks graphically describes her passage into psychosis, and the complex personal history of psychotherapeutics that followed her tortuous path repetitively into and out of control. She brilliantly describes her thought disorder, in the first person. One aspect of her journey that struck home was her powerful feelings of inadequacy and shame that frequently delayed her seeking treatment or accepting help. Her best times for controlling her illness were those epochs when she lived with or was being treated by individuals that she loved, and that loved her in turn — an intimate group of university friends, a generous young landlord, an effective British psychotherapist, her understanding husband.
If you have a schizophrenic in your life, and/or if you want to read a powerful first-person description of living with this devastating illness, <strong>read this book</strong>.