Monday, October 10, 2011

There's a Book

There's a book in my huge piles of books that I keep going back to that pisses me off every time I read it.  I'll break it down for you.

The characters-
A girl in high school, a senior.  Old enough to know better.

A mom with schizophrenia who can't know better. SHE's MENTALLY ILL.

A grandmother who has cut herself off from the family, knowing her daughter is mentally ill.

A dad who had divorced his mentally ill wife and left them for a younger wife and leaves them with next to no money and the senior in high school to take care of her mentally ill mother.  He knows she is not taking her medication, it's why he divorced her.

The storyline-
You've read it before in hundreds of other books but if you like I'll tell it again.

Stupid girl, in my opinion, agrees to not make her mother take her meds.  Even goes so far as to think creativity is a drug to her mother and wants to remove all her paints and brushes from the house.  Is afraid poetry and painting will make her own self schizophrenic.  I guess she's never heard of a computer or a library or even a doctor?  She doesn't ask anyone but her teenage mother best friend for help.  What is she supposed to do?  She's got a baby.  I'm thinking maybe this girl missed too much high school or sniffed to much paint fumes to get out of high school anyway.

Finally, after crazy woman (mom) does something drastic like trying to burn the house down to kill the mermaids they hung from the ceiling years ago, then becomes catatonic, girl goes to get help from grandmother.  Hello 911?  No apparently she hasn't learned those numbers yet.

Grandmother does dial 911 who get there just in time to keep mom from dying of dehydration and lack of food.  Hello?  Told you they shouldn't let the girl out of high school.  Yes, she's taking care of her mother very well.  I'm right there with you mom.  Right up until I let you die.  But I didn't make you take your pills.

So here's the kicker, in the back is an interview with the author and she's asked, "If you were aware that your creativity altered or infringed upon your mental state, would you sacrifice your art ( your writing, your music, your fine art if you draw like Aura or paint like Aura's mother) to retain your sanity, or would you continue to create?"
The author's answer-No doubt-I'd keep writing.  In all honesty, writing is so much a part of who I am anymore, so central to my life, I don't think I'd feel like I had much of a choice.

The author has likened the mother's paintbrushes and paint like giving a needle and drugs to a drug addict in the novel, following the daughter's thought that creativity makes you crazy.

As far as research the author states-" I didn't have to probe very deep into the subject of creativity to find out that many of our "great" artists (playwrights, poets, novelists, painters, sculptors, musicians) were in some way affected by mental illness-schizophrenia as well as depression or bipolar disorder...The idea of the "mad genius" is so pervasive, there's even a Wikipedia entry for "Creativity and Mental Illness!""  That's her exclamation point, not mine.  Continuing on..."And, yes, I did have to do some research into schizophrenia--symptoms, treatment, etc.  But I was writing fiction (oh, well in that case, please make it as awful as possible so that the person that is sick is truly as detestable as possible, a monster because that really betters the stigma of mental illness for everyone, thank you)---so of course my characters and their experiences had to drive the book, not descriptions of the condition.

So another book written showing that we with mental illness are burdens basically.  I don't see any other way to call it.  That's what this woman was to her daughter, her husband and her mother.  Of course, a person that sick shouldn't be given the option whether to take medication or not.  But that wasn't really the issue.  And I'm so glad the author got her information from Wikipedia.  That makes me feel much better.

Why is this bothering me so much?  I don't have schizophrenia.  But I care very much.  I can only imagine how horrible that disease is.  I've heard how bad the side effects of the medications are and how hard it is to lead a normal life.  I have refused to read independent and self published books about the victims of this disease because I'm tired of being the burden.  I am not a burden.  And neither are the rest of you.  And I want to fight back.  I want to put up a fight, but these authors hide behind, "It's a piece of fiction"  and I can't fight that.  Yet, it lingers in people's minds that's what they'll remember when they think about schizophrenia.  They'll remember the mother that tried to hang her daughter with herself  when they hear bipolar disorder.

So how do we change all those misconceptions about us in these books that are "just works of fiction."  Do I attack the books?  Because they actually are well written, except they make me a burden.  I am a person, not something to be borne by a pack mule.  What do you all think?



  1. This is an extremely provocative piece of writing that raises many questions in the mind of the reader. In my humble opinion, the fact that many of us suffering with mental illness excel in the arts is a wonderful blessing that no-one could ever take from us. Take away someone's paints and they'll find a piece of chalk or a rock to draw with. Take away someone's hearing (as in Beethoven's case) and he'll finish the symphony anyway, because it's a part of who he is.

  2. Great post Heather - It's the kind of speech to rally a revolutionary. That book sounds infuriating, as does its author. I'd write a very true review of such a book if I'd read it. Point out it's flaws. I'd also write to the author with those flaws and hope she learned that even fiction needs to be accurate - esp in its information of a vulnerable group of people! Teens read 'fiction' but don't always recognise it as fiction - Hell: So do adults. How many Trekkies are there STILL? Even soap fans attack soap stars for their characters behaviour? Bonkas but true.

    Mental illness is NOT something we can brush of in our fiction writing. IT's not like getting the latest trends wrong. IT's real and pervasive.

    OF course, you could always write a YA book about a teen who does all the RIGHT things for her mother? Show them how its done. ;D Shah. X