Book Review: Surviving Schizophrenia: A Memoir By LOUISE GILLETT


Tell me if she looks like someone with a mental illness!!!
Tell me if she looks like someone with a mental illness!!!

I recall receiving this book by mail on the 19th of May 2014, and knew then that it was going to ‘shake me up’. I was still trying to understand what the hell was going on with my brother, and didn’t even know that I was going to understand so much more about my own self too. I had received an amazon coupon from school for a survey I took, and I used it for this and nothing ‘trendy’.

Louise’s story resumed in her words

I was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was just nineteen. I am forty-three now, and I have recovered – and I use the term ‘recovery’ in its fullest sense. I have been free of medication and free of symptoms for twelve years. I have a husband, a home, and four young children – all things that I never thought would be possible at the age of twenty-five when I was informed of the diagnosis. At that time I accepted what I was told by the medical professionals; that the outlook was bleak in the extreme, that I would get worse as I became older and that I would have to be on medication for the rest of my life.

The Approach of the Medical Community as narrated

I was told that schizophrenia had first been diagnosed when I was nineteen, at the time of the first breakdown, but that it had not been thought appropriate to tell me then. Apparently the condition was confirmed by my second breakdown. Although I was confused at the lack of proof of the illness – there was (and remains) no physical test – I was told that there was no chance of recovery unless I accepted the diagnosis. Then, in a room filled with psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health nurses, I was told that my life was effectively over. That there was no chance of recovery anyway. They spelled out that I would have to take medication for the rest of my life, and that I would get worse as I got older. The treatment I received in hospital was brutal. Forced medication should in my opinion be outlawed, or saved for the most extreme cases— those who have been violent or suicidal. I was neither. The emphasis in hospital was on containment, not understanding, and this amounted to an inhumane system, notwithstanding the good intentions of some members of staff.

For more on this recap by Louise, read her blog entry shared on Mad In America!!!

What I make of her story

Mental Illness is for real and is sure due to more than one cause. Anyone can be affected and pretending we are fine or stronger than the ‘normal’ person, doesn’t mean we are immune to a meltdown. What begs for reflection is her assertion: “The emphasis in hospital was on containment, not understanding” – aha, is this why stats keep staying so bleak, dark and even dreary? That more and more people get mentally ill and just get worse? And what is the emphasis in society? Who is to blame? Obviously you the sufferer right? You sure brough this embarassment on yourself: Simply put, the Stigma is can definitely keep you really mentally ill. Louise herself admits to smoking cannabis and that is the big cause according to a nurse. Forget about “I was an extremely shy and nervous child. I had a chaotic upbringing – my mother was an alcoholic and my father a gambler. My father was also a very volatile character, and extremely verbally abusive. I found school very difficult – academically I excelled, but socially I was completely at sea…”

Conclusion of this review and introducing it’s sequel

Sequel to Surviving Schizophrenia
Sequel to Surviving Schizophrenia

Most of the books I review, are memoirs and I can’t help giving each of them a 5. Five stars to both the Author and the content. The courage, the traumatic experience revisiting all of that, the patience, resilence and all. I just wish such a survival could happen to my dear friend Pammy too. Anyway, stories like these help me just so tremendously in my own healing journey and murdy waters with a sometime frail mental health. I know I am alone in my head and to many, I just not ‘one of them’. Louise Gillett did not just stop at sharing her story, she wrote a sequel to that called Surfacing. She took her daughters to the Mental Hospital and decided to tell them her story herself. I just got a copy of this other memoir of hers, and I’ll be doing another review here in due time.

Louise Gillett can be found via her blog

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