These messages were able transcend the topic of mental illness speaking truthfully about the human condition so that anyone can learn from them. This is an important message for everyone to hear. Know your triggers Elyn has spent most of her life in academia which meant that there was a clear pattern to the year: two semesters and a long summer break. It was during these summer breaks that Elyn would have the hardest time with her disorder. The change from her active and engaging life on campus would suddenly come to a close and she found herself isolated and bored back home with her parents.

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The central goal of her work is to instill the idea that people with severe mental illness can attain tremendous benefits when given the right resources, allowing for increased autonomy and dignity. We started our conversation by discussing the nature of the condition itself. A waking nightmare "Schizophrenia is classified as a psychotic disorder, and that means it involves being out of touch with reality," Saks told me.

No such luck with a psychotic episode. A recent study suggested it may develop during a short period of time during infancy. Scientists also know that its effects are sometimes caused or worsened by certain recreational and prescription drugs.

Advertisement Once it manifests — typically in in the teen years or young adulthood — schizophrenia elicits both positive and negative symptoms. Hallucinations are another common positive symptom, though mostly auditory. Saks says she experiences the occasional visual hallucination, but not very often. Advertisement Negative symptoms, on the other hand, include things like apathy, an inability to hold on to relationships, an inability to work, and so on.

Schizophrenia is also characterized by disorganized thinking, along with the onset of loose and bizarre associations. Saks says it causes some people with schizophrenia to form "word salad," where words come out completely jumbled.

Experiencing psychosis I asked Saks if she remembers her first episode. Advertisement "I got up during the middle of class one day, and without telling anyone, I started to walk home — which was about five miles away — and I felt that the houses were starting to communicate with me and that they were sending me messages. That was the first experience of psychosis that I had. Later, during her first year at Oxford, she started exhibiting symptoms indicative of depression and mild paranoia.

Eventually, it developed into something more like a thought disorder than a mood disorder; the kinds of things characteristic with schizophrenia started to become characteristic with what Saks was experiencing. Advertisement "I started to have intense and frequent delusions," she said, "I did not hallucinate much, but I was very confused, and exhibited chaotic and disorganized thinking.

Saks was then taken to the emergency room and tied down to a hospital bed. She would spend the next five months in a psychiatric ward. Advertisement Over the course of the next several years, Saks was in a state of debilitating psychosis. She entered into analytic treatment, but was not on any medication. For ten years she refused to believe that she was suffering from a mental illness — a conviction that prevented her from taking her meds seriously.

Essentially, anyone who can recognize when an episode is coming on. At the same time, many people cling to outdated notions about the disorder.


Review of The Center Cannot Hold, by Elyn R. Saks

Shelves: nonfiction , ce , memoir , biology , medicine , mental-illness , psychoanalysis , women I have this fascination for mental health memoirs. The last here is a recent publication and completely enthralling. Wang led me to Elyn R. The early adulthood onset of schizophrenia is so brutal. Saks has a rich emotional memory.


The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness

She graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University before earning her master of letters from Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar and her J. She holds a Ph. Stoller Foundation, and American Law Institute. Another breakdown happened while Saks was a student at Yale Law School, after which she "ended up forcibly restrained and forced to take anti-psychotic medication". The idea remains controversial: managing a severe mental illness is more complicated than simply avoiding certain behaviors. Saks says "we who struggle with these disorders can lead full, happy, productive lives, if we have the right resources.

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