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Book Review: My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness by Sandra Yuen MacKay

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Did you ever scare yourself with your own imagination? What about that night you were watching that cheesy horror flick and were afraid to look out the window? Or the time you scared yourself into a panic, convinced you hadn’t unplugged the iron? Now, picture your life if your brain continuously supplied these frights and you believed they were real. You hear people talking about you from great distances away, and are convinced someone is using you as a test subject for some bizarre psychology study. Welcome to schizophrenia.

Sandra Yuen MacKay began experiencing paranoid schizophrenic symptoms when she was a  young teenager. Frightened and ignorant of the disease, she kept it to herself. Her family could not differentiate “normal” teenage mood swings and behavior from mental illness. Meanwhile, she could not differentiate between reality and the false messages her brain sent her.

In My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness, MacKay details the thought processes that made life hell, and the work involved in recovering. Mood-stabilizing and anti-psychotic drugs certainly played a big part in her recovery (as well as her distress), however accepting the label “mentally ill” was not easy. MacKay was also blessed to have a supportive family who loved her unconditionally and a community that offered a variety of options to persons with mental illness.

Readers will feel her frustration as doctors and treatment team members spout platitudes, some of which seemed nothing more than “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” or “grow up.” Being familiar with her disease, we don’t know if she is remembering exactly what those helping her said, or her interpretation. That doesn’t matter — it’s her perceptions that formed her reality.

My Schizophrenic Life is not an explanation or definition of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. It is a chronicle of one patient’s experiences and how she was able to structure her life around the disease after many attempts. Some of the episodes she details are common to many paranoid schizophrenics; others are unique to her. MacKay’s writing reveals so much about her experience, not only in the stories she tells, but how she chooses to tell them.

Anyone interested in mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, can learn from My Schizophrenic Life. Its value is in its candid look into what is going on in the mind of the sufferer.

Bottom Line: Would I buy My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness? Yes.

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About Miss Bob Etier

  • http://www.psyche1902.com Jean Marie Manthei, MA, LPC, CACIII

    Sandra, Hats off to you!!

    I have this illness and also just wrote a book–check out my website. I will look for your book as well.

    Jeannie