The Collected Schizophrenias



As far as diagnoses go, there's nothing more frightening that schizophrenia -- at least in my book. Some could argue that cancer is scary -- it is certainly a tyrant, but schizophrenia's symptoms can be so unpredictable, bizarre, and varied that is scares me more. In addition, people with schizophrenia may not even know they are ill, which makes any kind of treatment very challenging.

As a person trained to work with people with disabilities, I have been taught to use "person first" language. Did you notice above I said, "people with schizophrenia" and not "schizophrenics?" This is evidently a rule you can break if you are a person with schizophrenia as Esmé Weijun Wang is. She makes the point in the book that even the language we use about the disease shows that we fear it -- there is no adjective for cancer that relates to people. So, you may say that someone has cancer, but you wouldn't say that they are cancer or even cancerous. But, you may say that someone is schizophrenic or bipolar.

This fascinating book takes us through her history with schizophenia in a series of essays. We learn about Cotard's Delusion where the person with the delusion believes that they are already dead. And Capgras Delusion where the person believes that their loved ones have been replaced with an identical impostor or very-convincing robot. While rare, these things happen! And these people are sometimes involuntarily committed, which the author finds mostly unhelpful due to some unspoken rules about commitment, namely that the committed is never to be believed.

In general, I was captivated by the book, and I finished it very quickly. In the end, she gets into some theoretical concepts about schizophrenia possibly resulting in psychic abilities or connections to other (possibly meaningful) realities, which I could have done without. However, I would recommend the book to anyone looking for first person perspective on living with schizophrenia.

For those keeping track:
-I got this book from my public library through the process of wandering around the new non-fiction section until I found something that looked interesting.

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