The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays

While there are stories about people with schizophrenia, there’s not much written by people with schizophrenia. It could be that few people recover to the point where they want to tell their story. Esme Weijun Wang’s essays are an exception to this. In a lighthearted manner, she discusses her own experience, as well as how we perceive schizophrenia in society and pop culture. 

The story about Malcoum Tate shocked me. He was a 34-year old man with schizophrenia who was killed by his sister at the roadside while his mother waited in the car. She shot him thirteen times before checking for a pulse to make sure he was dead. Tate claimed that he’d been sent by God to kill his sister’s baby and would loom in her bedroom at night. It led her to take drastic action, which illustrates just how devastating schizophrenia can be for everyone involved. Thirteen shots is a lot. 

As Wang points out, some people dislike the diagnosis and view it as a box or label, but she finds comfort in preexisting conditions. It’s nice to know that you’re not pioneering an inexplicable experience, she writes. I feel the same way. Diagnosis provides a framework to build upon and a way to patch your life back together after things fall apart.  

If you’re looking for a book on the emotional roller-coaster that you go through with schizophrenia, this is not it. Wang provides a sober and thoughtful look at the condition without digging too much into the nitty-gritty. What I like best are the numerous resources she brings up with both books and articles. It makes for a good starting point for further reading. I learned more about schizophrenia by reading Wang’s stories than I did talking to my psychiatrist for the past five years. That should tell you something.

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