Posted in Book Reviews, Mental Health Advocacy, My Heroines

Book review: Divided Minds by Co-authors Pammy and Lynnie


Pammy and Lynnie: sweet twin
Pammy and Lynnie: sweet twins

I don’t know for sure whose head is bent in that picture, but I guess it’s Pammy.  Ok just a silly introduction to this book review.

The Description as featured

A riveting true story of sisters who were identical, until the voices began.

Growing up in the fifties, Carolyn Spiro was always in the shadow of her more intellectually dominant and socially outgoing twin, Pamela. But as the twins approached adolescence, Pamela began to suffer the initial symptoms of schizophrenia, hearing disembodied voices that haunted her for years and culminated during her freshman year of college at Brown University where she had her first major breakdown and hospitalization. Pamela’s illness allowed Carolyn to enter the spotlight that had for so long been focused on her sister. Exceeding everyone’s expectations, Carolyn graduated from Harvard Medical School and forged a successful career in psychiatry.

Despite Pamela’s estrangement from the rest of her family, the sisters remained very close, “bonded with the twin glue,” calling each other several times a week and visiting as frequently as possible. Carolyn continued to believe in the humanity of her sister, not merely in her illness, and Pamela responded.

Told in the alternating voices of the sisters, Divided Minds is a heartbreaking account of the far reaches of madness as well as the depths of ambivalence and love between twins. It is a true and unusually frank story of identical twins with very different identities and wildly different experiences of the world around them. It is one of the most compelling histories of two such siblings in the canon of writing on mental illness.

What I dare have to say

I couldn’t turn off that kindle until I had read the last word. Pammy was already close to my heart before I read this memoir of theirs – so you can imagine where she is now in ranking right?

I recall a post on my other heroine and friend’s blog: I think it was on bipolar guilt by association! Yep that’s it. Could we say Lynnie was same? Let’s leave the different label alone but the point remains that you can’t help not ‘catching the flu’ if you hang around or care for a patient right or wrong? and so what if you do? There is so much to explore in that memoir.

I commend the both authors. Their father’s behaviour and maybe the reasons or the siblings approach to him and Pammy altogether, rings so much of a bell in my own neighbourhood. In my case sadly, my brother died not receiving the wink he so much longed from his father. I have drawn my safe boundary and am peace as is. He can stay in his corner and review his own motives!

It’s by now a fact, that I rate such memoir hardly less than a 5.  If you care about such subjects, add the memoir to your Christmas wish list.

Dear gentle readers and followers, Pammy was my spotlight here on Wednesday and you now see that she deserves much more than that right?

Posted in Mental Health Advocacy, My Heroines

Pammy S.W my Heroine mindful of her Schizophrenia diagnosis

Pammy herself
Pammy herself

How it all started

I recall my post on who is a simpleton? I detailed my friendship with with massa Gaby, and although I don’t know what or if he was ever diagnosed with any mental illness (hardly the case back home you know – you go lun and you are abandoned by your family and all to roam the streets as you please), I see a lot of schizophrenia symptons there now.

When I became more active in the mental illness world, one of my first friends (now a precious member of my dear e family), was none other than Pammy as she is fondly called. Please, do yourself literary justice and read her about me page to understand once and for the umpteenth time that psychiatry destroys more than it helps and heals so far.  Why let people with so much talent deteriorate so far all because you think they belong to some category and gotta get that label which means take those particular meds and sleep off or be locked off?

We mad people do climb shaky ladders

By Pammy my heroine
By Pammy my heroine

Pamela Spiro Wagner: Artist (in her potrait above, she sits close to one of her gorgeous works of art) , poet, co-author of Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and their Journey through Schizophrenia (St Martins Press, 2005) and author of We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders (CavanKerry Press, 2009). Her third book, poems, Learning to See in Three Dimensions is now also available for publication.

What’s special

But today, what I want to tell you about Pammy is that we got to bond further by a series of emails  when we were both going through tough times. I can’t compare mine to Pammy’s numerous, I mean she’s braved it so much from childhood to her now +6decades. Pammy was on her way out to Vermont, leaving CT after her ‘conviction’ that only death stared at her there. I was in a depression about my status quo and needed to make a decision or snap outrightly. And so from Oct 31 – Nov 28, we totaled a good 18 lengthy emails of mutual support. And to think I haven’t ever met Pammy?

Her comment on my recent post on Monica my spanish graciella, just confirmed Pammy’s generous heart (come back friday to read my review of the book she co-authored with her twin Lynnie). Pammy wrote: ” You know, my own response to such a request from you would be the same: “Why of course, Marie, come here, stay with me, whatever you need, anything at all that I can do…” and she signed off:  Your friend and a small but loving member of your large “web family,” “Pammy”!

I mean, reading all this, isn’t it a shame that we sometimes are quick to shun anyone off once we hear the label they have or the ‘diagnosis’ they’ve got? If I wanted one myself, I’ll press my shrink and am sure to get one! And what will or should that change? Yeah I have those shaggy moments and do lun  sometimes and so what?

Some about schizophrenia

understanding SczI don’t know which type my Pammy has, not that it changes my esteem and big love for her.  There are five different types of schizophrenia, including paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated, and residual. While nobody with schizophrenia behaves normally, the exact symptoms depend on the exact type of schizophrenia. The cause of schizophrenia is not known, but it may be a combination of stress, environment, and hereditary factors. I recently came across a blog post on beyond meds where the above report was promoted. I hope it gets the attention and effect intended.

Dear gentle readers and followers, it’s high time we start taking bigger stock of our own attitudes even towards our own selves. I have come across people who have lost precious ones to this schizo… and in most cases, they tell of the devastating impact of shame and stigma on themselves and the patient.

and to you Dear Pammy, thank you for being my friend, for letting me get to know about this illness more, for getting me worried about you, and for trying to stay in touch when you can. I do love your works and I wish I could visit with you someday.