Next Monday on Understanding Schizophrenia
Dr. Elyn Saks wrote the “The Center Cannot Hold,” which follows her journey into, through and continuing to cope with schizophrenia.
While at Oxford University, she suffered mental illness, which landed her in a mental hospital. With medication and therapy, she was able to finish her degree and continue on to Yale Law School, where once again schizophrenia momentarily took over her life.
Saks, who is now married and an associate dean at the USC Gould School of Law, will speak at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 20, in the Palisades Library community room, 861 Alma Real. Sponsored by the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, the talk will give residents a better understanding of schizophrenia.
At one point in her life, Saks convinces her doctor, Kaplan [a pseudonym], to lower her dosage of Zyprexa. She writes in her book that he agreed with the caveat that “If, in his judgment, I was in trouble and he decided that I needed to go back on my dosages, I’d do it immediately – no bargaining, no equivocation.”
Saks writes, “As I dropped my levels over the next few weeks, I faintly sensed the fog drifting in, the early signs of disorganization beginning. I gritted my teeth and concentrated on work. I can adjust to it, I thought. I’ll get better. Just wait. I flew east for my tenth law school reunion . . .and for most of the evening’s program at Yale, I sat next to Steve [her best friend] and struggled with the urge to jump out of my chair and scream at the terrifying creatures hovering in the air around me.”
Kaplan insists that she go back on the dosage, which she does and then attends a conference in San Francisco. “But the delusions and the disorganization accelerated; I was coming apart at the seams. I called Kaplan.”
Her doctor suggested that she return to Los Angeles, but she decided against his advice. “At which point my sickness took a new, horrific turn. For some reason, I decided that Kaplan and Steve were imposters. They looked the same, they sounded the same, they were identical in every way to the originals – but they’d been replaced, by someone or something. Was it the work of alien beings? I had no way of knowing, but I was terrified.”
“The Center Cannot Hold” is a fascinating story of a woman who through real-life struggles is helping others better understand schizophrenia. Saks received a “Genius Grant” from the MacArthur Foundation to support her work.
Many homeless people suffer from some sort of mental illness and Saks’ talk may help enlighten others.