Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Elyn Saks, "The Center Cannot Hold"

I read Elyn Saks' The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (Hyperion 2007) for a local disability studies book group recently. Maybe you caught the interview with Saks on radio's "Fresh Air" last summer--a lot of people seem to have, when I mention this book (it's somewhere on my iPod, I think, but I haven't heard it yet). Elyn Saks is a professor at USC's Gould School of Law, and adjunct professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego's School of Medicine. The book is her memoir, beginning in her teens and running through college (at Vanderbilt), grad school (at Oxford, on fellowship), law school (Yale), getting tenured at USC and getting married and surviving cancer twice.

But through all of that, her story is about having schizophrenia--not triumphing over it, not recovering from it, but living with it, through stresses and moves and career milestones. It's engaging and sometimes funny and sometimes harrowing, especially when comparing her treatment in the UK and US. If you liked Amy S. Wilensky's Passing for Normal: A Memoir of Compulsion (Broadway Books 2000), you'll probably find this well worth checking out, too.

Saks's clearest message is in the last sentences:
What makes life wonderful--good friends, a satisfying job, loving relationships--is just as valuable for those of us who struggle with schizophrenia as for anyone else. If you are a person with mental illness, the challenge is to find the life that's right for you. But in truth, isn't that the challenge for all of us, mentally ill or not? My good fortune is not that I've recovered from mental illness. I have not, nor will I ever. My good fortune lies in having found my life.


Anonymous said...

I read her book too. It is really good written: a good romance. And I am amazed Elyn was able to reach such high levels in jobs at University. But she did not recover! Damned! While recovery is possible: look at the story of Ken Steele, of the norvegian Arnhild Lauveng. There's also my own story: I recovered of a delirious paranoid schizophrenia through several years of an individual psychoanalytic psychotherapy, while ELYN did not even after more as 13 or 15 years of intense, classic psychoanalysis! I am without psychoapharmakon since years, just like A. Lauveng.

Anonymous said...

That schizophrenia is genetic is a theory that cannot be proven and will never be proven. Billions have been spent by the drug companies to make everyone believe that this illness is an incurable, genetic illness. These companies give billions to medical schools to teach this falsehood to our young doctors.Those that suffer from this illness are now more stigmatized then ever, many now believing they they are suffering an incurable gentic illness and must be on medication forever.
These pharmaceutical companies and those that support these lies should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
Schizophrenia is a psychological illness that can be cured, and many have been cured. Carl Jung cured patients suffering from this illness more than a hundreds years ago.
To say that it is genetic for profit is eveil in it's purest form.

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