Next Up For Review

Next Up For Review
The Center Cannot Hold, Elyn Saks

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

January Doesn't Have To Be Bleak

At six years old, January Schofield, “Janni,” to her family, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, one of the worst mental illnesses known to man.  What’s more, schizophrenia is 20 to 30 times more severe in children than in adults and in January’s case, doctors say, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her.

I Admit, I've been a bad, bad girl. I have read many books since the last time I posted a review; and not a one has made it on this blog, to my Amazon review page, or any other sort of media. I'm not proud of my lack of structure; in fact, I've been hiding my head in shame since early May, wondering if I will ever finish my fourth book's edits, send my first book into a reprint or get my second book away from my first publisher (who I've come to despise).  At first I made light of my moral failings, pretending I would soon snap back into action. It wasn't until very recently (as in yesterday) that I actually began to see the pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel that has become my life and I decided, without any more delays, to force myself back to work.
But why? What could have kept you from writing for so very long...and why, when you are finally creeping back into the world of creative writing, would you chose to do it with a book review?
The answer is simple: I chose this book, and this review, because like the Schofield family, I have a child who suffers from a major mental illness; and after  several years of  riding the roller coaster, being derailed from every path I ever foresaw, watching the best laid plans turn to ash and trying to decide who to tell and who to hide from, I finally decided I just don't care what people think. 
Scratch that. I care very much what people think--especially when it comes to my friends and loved ones. 
The misconceptions about schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders are abundant and spread like fire through the Redwoods. In our society the word 'psychotic' is used interchangeably with the term 'serial killer' and after incidents like the James Holmes/Colorado tragedy...well you can see why most people who suffer from hallucinations aren't quick to come out and dispel the myth of all schizophrenics being violent. The ones who are often have been victims of long standing glitches in our mental health care laws. The ones who aren't cringe when bad news related to schizophrenia erupts, hide their heads and pretend to be typical (if they can).
But just as I'm feeling alone, doomed to hide, stigmatized and ashamed, along comes this tiny, blond pixie--just a wisp of a person--with the voice and courage so many of us lack, speaking freely about her challenges (If you haven't caught her story on Discovery Health, I'd highly encourage you to do so. It is worth your time) shouting through the megaphone held by her parents, Susan and Michael, forcing the world to hear...
Let's just say, suddenly my fears seem downright ridiculous. Jani is only ten. I have three additional decades of 'wisdom' to her one. What the heck am I hiding from? 
People fear what they don't understand. The time has come for people to understand the truth about schizophrenia. Not what is portrayed in the movies. Not what the lamestream media wants to publicize, but The Truth, all of it, even the parts that aren't pretty (not many are). 
Go on, say the word. Let it roll around on your tongue a bit before forcing it past your lips into the open air. 
Feels weird, doesn't it? Not so bad, right? Now, try to attach it to someone you love: your best friend, your sister or (God forbid) your own child. Ask yourself this: if my child were suffering, what would I want the world to know about them? How would I want them treated? How would I cope? Who could I trust? Where would we go? How would we function in this place where people shield their eyes and run?
Bet you can't even begin to guess. I'm going to go so far as to say, I bet many a reader will pick this book up, read a few chapters, form a few misguided opinions about bad parenting, set it down and thank their lucky stars that it isn't THEM who is affected--it isn't THEIR child lashing out, talking to trees (or dogs or unicorns or demons or...pick your poison here) lost in the world, relying on psychiatry to catch up to the rest of modern medicine and praying people will be kind.
But it could be you. If it could happen to Jani, the offspring of two intelligent, loving parents who doted on her and held every aspiration of sending her straight to the top to take over the world, it could happen to you. It happened to me. It happens every day, to families everywhere who feel they have to walk around stigmatized for a biochemical grenade which buried itself in their loved one's brain and blew up when they least expected it.
And that, my reading friends, is exactly why you need to read this book.
Not only is it well written, it is gritty, raw and truthful. It doesn't paint mental illness in any light other than the one that illuminated the Schofield family. And their light, no matter how much it dimmed, never went out.
Instead it became a beacon of hope.
Right now you can grab your copy of 'January First' on
Kindle: $12.99
Hardcover: about $15.00...Worth every penny. Come, read, learn and light the way.