Saturday, April 28, 2012

On Being Crazy and a Book Review of Sorts

When I was a school-going teenager, there was a man who used to walk along the streets of the neighbourhood. He looked dishevelled at most times, and walked aimlessly day after day. People said he was *crazy. I always hoped that I'd never have to cross paths with him as I made my way back home from the bus stop after school activities. So, why was there this strangely deep fear of someone who was  rumoured to be crazy? 

When I was even younger (7 or 8, maybe), I sat with my family one night and watched this film called The Lunatics. Despite only getting by with subtitles, the film was visual enough (as kids, my parents never really shielded us from violence on TV, and back then neither did the Malaysian censorship board - if there was one back then) to scare me into believing that while they were not fully in control of their condition, they were capable of violence. It's impact was so immense that one of the final scenes keeps playing in my head as I'm typing this post out.

The sudden recollection of the past was due to this: 

About a week ago or so, my sister lent me a book that went by the name Henry's Demons. 


It is a true account of a family's journey through the son's battle with schizophrenia  mostly from the point of view of the father (although quite a lot of it is also from the mother's point of view as well, it was written by the father), from the time he was first diagnosed till today, how he went through all the different hospitals and facilities and how he seemed to have this incomprehensible desire in running away from the hospitals and the putting himself in danger by entering extremely cold bodies of water. What makes the book even better is that the son (Henry) himself contributes a few chapters as to how he perceived what he was going through and how for him, everything (including having trees and bushes speaking to him) was as real as say, having a cup of coffee.

The book subtly also lets you know that not all people diagnosed are a danger to the public and how they are more of a danger to themselves, especially in Henry's case. It evokes sympathy - how someone could be so 'normal' one day and turn into someone you hardly know the next day. How mental health care works, or how people perceive those with mental illness, that family members rarely speak about it. In whole, it was a rather splendid book, so if you happen to get your hands on this book, do give it a read. 

* Many years later while we're talking about the disappearance of the man, my sister tells me that the man once used to be a cop, and he fell down, injured his head and was never the same again. Naturally, he lost his job and his family also left him soon after. I think my heart broke a little when I heard this story. The least they could have done was get him some help, right?

18 comments:

  1. Sounds... interesting to say the least.

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    1. It is.. I couldn't put the book down. And when I had to, it was with a lot of reluctance.

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  2. There are a lot of sides to mental illness and most of the time people can't help it and they deserve a lot more care and attention than is usually given to them.

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  3. sounds like a good book especially with the real boy having an account of his experiences. will look for it.
    kind of reminds me of a book i read on anorexia - The Invisible Girl, written by the main character's father on her life and battle with eating disorder which eventually killed her at 26.

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    1. I'd like to get hold of the one on anorexia... always a fascinating topic.

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  4. Talking to bushes and trees just like a cup of coffee? Well I suppose it all depends on your state of mind, anything can be real to you if you believe it enough. Sounds like quite the journey.

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    1. "Anything can be real to you if you believe it enough" How true!

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  5. I think we still have a lot to learn about conditions like this.

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    1. Yup. I'm glad that books like this can be read by us who are probably still quite blur about people suffering from mental illness.

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  6. I can relate well enough. My mum was diagnosed with paranoia schizophrenia few years ago. She's able to live a somewhat normal life now (in fact you wouldn't think she had a condition like this) but that came after years of treatment, relapses and hospital admissions. Definitely made us all more aware of what schizophrenia is, it's causes, symptoms, etc.

    She too, used to hear voices from things around the house - seemingly as real as having a cup of coffee. I wished that man you're referring to had gotten the help he needed from his family.

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    1. Oh. I'm so sorry to hear that you and your family had to go through this. Thankfully, she had her family to give her the support she needs.

      Sorry about the delayed reply. Blogger thought you were spam!

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  7. Ooo yes will look out for this book. Can't believe I've never heard of it before.

    Was good finally meeting you dear...too bad it was so brief though.

    Much thanks for the stuff!

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    1. It's quite 'new', I think.

      Likewise, it was good meeting you too. I hope the kids enjoy their new books when they get them :)

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  8. Wow, you'd think that his family would have been more supportive and helpful of him but no.

    Shame.

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  9. The book sounds a little too much like my work for me, but interesting story about the injured cop. So sad that he was just abandoned like that.

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    1. Oh yes, I'm sure you deal with situations of this sort on a daily basis.

      And yes, it's pretty sad that he was abandoned just like that. No one has seen him lately either.

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  10. i wonder why its hard for me to finish a book nowadays haha

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