The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reading this excellent collection of essays was something rather stunning.
Shocking, personal, informative, and -- let's face it -- scarier than anything else I've read in this, the month of October.
Of course, the fact that it is factual and revelatory and so very, very personal should be the highest selling point, but more than that, it shines a light on the spectrum of what we call Schizophrenia, entirely.
Let's break it down. I knew from getting my degree in Psychology that people are not schizophrenics but that they have one or more types of effects that color -- or disrupt -- their outlook on life. This takes so many forms, so, unfortunately, it's a very problematic problem to define.
It's obviously horrible for those suffering from it, but a lot of these essays actually lay out a much larger issue: the stigma. When a person is going through delusions, complete disorganization, or are unable to differentiate their assumptions from reality, it doesn't automatically mean that they are dangerous. It means the confusion has underwritten their lives.
But speaking about it in our society has always been a very dangerous move. In the past more than now, hospitalization generally came with involuntary stays, a pharmacopeia, and assuming they've avoided that, episodes generally get them fired from jobs, they lose their schooling, and -- in general -- people are either unable to understand or provide the proper support.
This is true even in the most supportive of families, the most well-meaning institutions, and even for the people suffering from it.
This brilliant essayist went to Yale and has been institutionalized 3 times. She has had many full-blown episodes without being institutionalized. And yet, she's a very wonderful writer, expresses all these situations in such a way that my heart breaks, and it terrifies me.
In our world, we do NOT have the most supportive of families, entirely well-meaning institutions, and there's still a lot of misinformation about the collected Schizophrenias.
But there is hope. You know why? Essays like these are fantastic for opening our eyes.
And let's get into something real, here: the delusions that are spoken of in here are not unique to schizophrenics. They may take on a more intense character and may last longer for those suffering from a schizo-affective disorder, but it is not different *in quality* than the kinds of things we see every day all around us. In so-called *normal* people.
Being fixated on some things or falling in deep into an imaginary world, whether it is a book or a movie, is considered a GOOD thing in most circles. The ability to get so wrapped-up in a story that you cry and can't stop going on about it? We call that being enraptured.
Having this "disorder", at least in certain cases, is merely an intensification of the same thing the rest of us actually praise ourselves for.
How about fixation? We could even go so far as to make this political:
How about ignoring all the bad deeds of a political candidate, from a near-endless stream of lies to inflaming racial tensions, even welcoming a civil war, all because he says he will support a single issue, say, illegalizing all abortion? The fixation says that ALL BAD THINGS are on the table so long as you get THIS ONE THING.
Disorganized thoughts tend to alight on single-ticket items as a way to ignore the complexities of reality. It happens a lot to many, many, many people. So long as you cut away all the facts that do not support your intended outcome, the end will always justify the means.
I suggest that there are a lot of schizophrenics out here in the world. Right this instant.
If it's a fixation that more and more people seem to share, it's no longer a DSM item. It's just the willingness to be ruthless and get into bed with demons so long as the demons support your primary fixation. Make America Great Again at all costs! Hell, damn ALL the costs. Burn it all to the ground as long as they stop killing babies!
And still, most of the homeless on the streets today fall under the category of the collected Schizophrenias. The misunderstanding is real and it shouldn't have to be this way. If we understood ourselves better, we'd know we are going through the same damn thing as them.
Maybe we're all headed to homelessness, misunderstanding, total confusion, and fixation.
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