Exploring & Sharing Life | Lessons | Experiences

If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness.” ~ Philip K. Dick – author

The portrayal of Schizophrenia And Critical Analysis…

Pammy was diagnosed with schizophrenia while attending medical school. “Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality” (NIMH, 2018).  Pammy’s portrayal of the mental disorder is beyond description. Reading the book gave me a new perspective of schizophrenia, and it has brought to light the symptoms of the illness and the negative interpretation that is connotated with it.

Photo by Camila-Quintero-Franco- on Unsplash

 Pamela’s Initial Reaction To Her Diagnosis…

When the doctor told her that “I believe you have schizophrenia,” … and Pammy said, “ That’s nonsense, I am not crazy” (Wagner & Spiro, 2005, p.191).  Pammy acted like anyone would have acted if they were in her shoes. The stigmatization was real, Pammy could not come to terms with the fact that she could have such a disease when she was considered to be so brilliant and creative. Pammy described episodes of hearing incessant voices (auditory hallucinations), nonstop vivid visions (visual hallucinations), rampant paranoia, and depressive moods swings (low and high moods).

Readers Living Through Pamela’s Experience

 Pammy let the readers experience her few catatonia episodes where she seemed nothing but a lifeless object lying on the hospital bed. The imagery of her narratives was compelling and almost seemed like the reader was watching a 3D movie as opposed to reading a memoir.  A sample narration of an episode she encountered while at the state hospital reads:

“ I waiver on the edge of catatonia, at times frozen in awkward positions, mute to eat and barely able to toilet myself, at others, emerging from my stupor, charged with frantic energy and an insupportable terror of the spies and counterspies who are battling over me” (Wagner & Spiro, 2005, p.194)

Photo by Oscar-Keys on Unsplah

The Feeling Of Helplessness & Stigmatization Caused By Lack Of Understanding

Many times people suffering from severe mental disorders battle feelings, fears, doubts, helplessness, and pain and are not understood by the general public.  This is why they are easily outcast from society and not receiving the help they need. Sometimes even mental professionals have difficulty relating to those suffering from severe mental disorders.  For these reasons and several others, this book is an excellent tool for those living with mental disorders and their relatives.

Reading this book will help equip mental health professionals, people living with schizophrenia, and their loved ones understand what it is really like to live with the illness: the daily struggles, the lack of energy to keep up with self-care and helplessness of the illness. As this quote rightly stated, “The schizophrenic brain does not “fragment” it decompensates into failure like a vulnerable heart. As in recovery from congestive heart failure, empathy and medicines are both important” (Vaillant, 2006).

Carolyn’s Humanly Reactions Toward Her Sister’s Illness

Carolyn only talks more about the illness toward the end, a missed opportunity considering the fact she was a well-respected psychiatrist and also treated patients with schizophrenia. Carolyn never really digs in deep, and that does not do any justice to the readers who would love to hear her opinion regarding the disorder. On the other hand, she rightfully portrayed the pain and struggle to have a loved one going through a severe mental health problem.

Carolyn Shed More Light On Their Relationships & Their Emotional Pains…

Carolyn’s vast knowledge on the subject would have greatly impacted readers, both mental health professionals and sufferers of schizophrenia or their relatives. Also, Carolyn did not really indicate what led her to switch from being a Medical Doctor to a Psychiatrist. She only said she was more interested in hearing about patients stories than doing a physical examination on her patients (Wagner & Spiro, 2005, p.175). Carolyn talked mostly about how the disorder impacted her relationship with her sister and the struggles of trying to take care of her.

The pains and constant feelings of self-pity made her come off as a little self-centered, which almost overshadows the sacrifices she made for her sister. Carolyn should have used a bit of expertise and engaged readers with what the disorder is all about and success stories of patients she worked with. Furthermore, readers would have loved to know why Carolyn never took an active role in treating her sister, she only briefly mentioned it toward the end of the book, and it seemed like the narration was forced.


Mental Health is relevant to everyone because it is not only those living with mental health going through pains, but also their loved ones, family, and friends. Although it is Pamela who is struggling with the illness, Carolyn stood and supported her more than anyone in the family and experienced turbulent emotions of her own in the process. Even though it would have been great to hear her expertise in this matter, it is satisfying that she did not stop fighting alongside her sister.

Hope you are enjoying and learning something from this series like I am. Please, stay tuned for the next post on this series. Feel free to like, comment and share.

Food For Thought

Mental Pain vs. Physical Pain

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also harder to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increase the burden: It is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken”. C.S Lewis

Overcome Stigmatization of Mental Health By Embracing It “When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.” Brene’ Brown

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