Thursday, 10 September 2015

Surviving Schizophrenia by Louise Gillett

 published 2012





Surviving Schizophrenia



Louise Gillett was a blog visitor who recommended her own book: a memoir available for Kindle at Amazon. I was interested in what she had to say so did read her book. It’s not one that makes for one of my normal entries (illustration, excerpt, commentary) so am just writing a straight piece on it.

The book is a description of her life to date, lived mostly in Dorset in the south of England: she had a highly dysfunctional childhood with a very strange family. Her parents were unusual people with difficult lives and terrible problems, and it is clear that Louise and her many siblings - I lost track somewhat, but I think there were 9 children in the family – lived in considerable chaos.

So the story of her childhood is squalid and shocking, and an extraordinary mixture of poverty and plenty as her father made and lost money, and then became a hopeless gambler. Her mother became an alcoholic.

Gillett had increasingly difficult spells, which eventually led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia and some time in mental hospitals. She kept trying to build a new life for herself, but then something always went wrong – she had a number of failed relationships, she lived abroad for a time, she studied for a degree. Eventually she pulled her life together, with occasional setbacks, and seems finally to have found happiness. After reading her story you couldn’t be rooting for her more, and I hope the family life she has created will stay stable.

Gillett says she has always wanted to be a writer, and I found her style in this book to be most impressive: it is not very literary, it’s rough around the ages, but I just wanted to keep reading. There is nothing fancy about her style or her method of telling the story, but she has an excruciating bravery and honesty, which you can only admire and respect.

She does raise some very interesting questions about her diagnosis, and the whole concept of the terrifying word of schizophrenia. It is very plain – and I think she wouldn’t argue – that she really did have some serious issues. But the diagnosis seems to have been random and unhelpful, and the medication she was given not necessarily beneficial. At the most basic level, she finds out years later that some of the ‘symptoms’ she suffered were actually side-effects of her medication.

There is a lot of joke disrespect for the idea that ‘uneducated’ patients are busy looking up their symptoms on the internet these days, busy diagnosing themselves then having the nerve to take their conclusions to their much more knowledgeable doctors. On reading this book I thought what a good thing it is that nowadays people can look things up for themselves – I think it would have helped Gillett enormously to find out more about her situation and medication.

I’m very glad she drew my attention to her book, and very glad to have read it. Her honesty and openness can only help other people – which I think is what she would want. I wish her every happiness and success in her life.






10 comments:

  1. What a fascinating - and I'm sure compelling - story this is, Moira. I think the better we understand schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, the less we'll be prone to the superstitions and stereotypes that surround it. And that can only be helpful to those who deal with such illnesses on a daily basis.

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    1. That's very well-put Margot, you express much of what I feel about this book.

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  2. Moira: As someone who deals with people who have received free legal advice - from family, friends, random strangers - and others who have spent some time on the internet looking up the "law" I would say "do it yourself" law can lead you astray, sometimes disastrously, more often than the information is helpful.

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    1. I completely believe you Bill! I am trying to think why I would be convinced that legal advice would be different from medical, and I think it's because legal matters are so specific, with proper rules - perhaps there is more unknown in the medical world.... There couldn't be a law that there was no record of, or that didn't exist but had to be considered, could there? But that's not true of illnesses....

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  3. Interesting change of scenery for your reading. Good luck to her.

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    1. Exactly - you couldn't read it and not hope for the best for her. And it's good to read something quite different now and again.

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  4. Thank you Moira, I really appreciate you taking the time to read and review my book. I am honoured to be included on a book blog, and I am sorry I kind of cheated by mentioning the 'French Connection togs' quote at the beginning of my book to draw you in - I hoped you would want to read more and I am so glad that you did! I am very grateful for your comments on my writing - informed criticism is invaluable. I have never had an editor or an agent but I hope that one day I will benefit from that kind of input.
    I have enjoyed reading the other comments here too - it is good to know that there are people out there with open minds. There is so much I would like to say to you all about mental health - but here is not the place! Thanks again. Louise.

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    1. I'm glad you were happy with the blogpost, Louise, and once again send you all my good wishes and hopes for your future. I really admire your bravery both in coping with your problems, and in writing about them with such honesty. I'm sure your book will be a huge help to other people.

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  5. Very interesting post and I am sure the book is interesting too.

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    1. It's a very honest story, Tracy, and I felt I learned a lot from it.

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