I really enjoyed reading Esmé Wang‘s The Collected Schizophrenias. It’s a short book, only about 200 pages, and you could probably finish it in a day (it took me three because I was a little busier than usual). I recommend you read this book. Here are my 11 favorite snippets.
Humans are the arbiters of which diagnoses are given to other humans––who are, in most cases, suffering, and at the mercy of doctors whose diagnostic decisions hold great power. Giving someone a diagnosis of schizophrenia will impact how they see themselves. It will change how the interact with friends and family, The diagnosis will affect how they are seen by the medical community, the legal system, the Transportation Security Administration, and so on.
Even now, she doesn’t consider herself an X on the family tree, preferring to keep herself a mild circle, absolved on the page despite her own history of suicidal ideation, panic, and hiding in closets.
The story of schizophrenia is one with a protagonist, “the schizophrenic,” who is first a fine and good vessel with fine and good things inside of it, and then becomes misshapen through the ravages of psychosis; the vessel becomes prone to being filled with nasty things. Finally, the wicked thoughts and behaviors that may ensue become inseparable from the person, who is now unrecognizable from what they once were.
Humans might all be ciphers to one another, but people with mental illness are particularly opaque because of their broken brains. We cannot be trusted about anything, including our own experiences.
Sometimes, my mind does fracture, leaving me frightened of poison in my tea or corpses in the parking lot. But then it reassembles, and I am once again a recognizable self.
In [Elyn R. Sak’s study about the nature of high-functioning schizophrenia], employment remains the primary marker of someone who is high-functioning, as having a job is the most reliable sign that you can pass in the world as normal. Most critically, a capitalist society values productivity in its citizens above all else, and those with mental illness are much less likely to be productive in ways considered valuable by adding to the cycle of production and profit.
Because I am capable of achievement, I find myself uncomfortable around those who are visibly psychotic and audibly disorganized.
If the conversation winds its way to my diagnosis, I emphasize my normalcy. See my ordinary, even superlative appearance! Witness the fact that I am articulate. Rewind our interaction and see if you can spot cracks in the facade. See if you can, in sifting through your memory, find hints of insanity to make sense of what I’ve said about who I am. After all, what kind of lunatic has a fashionable pixie cut, wears red lipstick, dresses in pencil skirts and tucked-in blouses? What sort of psychotic wears Loeffler Randall heels without tottering?
In the language of cancer, people describe a thing that “invades” them so that they can “battle” the cancer. No one ever says that a person is a cancer, or that they have become cancer, but they do say that a person is manic-depressive or schizophrenic, once those illnesses have taken hold.
…institutions of higher education fear liability, because no wants to sued over a student’s suicide, or held responsible for a mass shooting. According to many who live and work at them, colleges and universities can’t realistically be expected to give students with severe mental illness the treatment they need.
We are, in the end, linked by desperation based in suffering, and based on a system of conventional medicine that not only has no method of alleviating that suffering, but also accuses us of psychosomatic pathology.