Out of the Silence: A BEAUTIFUL MIND
One of the largest problems confronting the schizophrenic is breaking through the stigma pervading society's conception of the illness. I seems difficult for the world to accept that, in most cases, the sufferer isn't perpetually violent, or filthy, or deviant. All in all, it is just an illness, the same as any other, proper diagnosis and treatment can assist those who fall ill to regain at least part of their lives.
An excellent example of this is brought into striking clarity by the an examination of the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr., in Sylvia Nasar's engrossing biography A BEAUTIFUL MIND. A winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, Nasar's matter-of-fact style humanizes Nash's struggle against his illness. She does not overdramatise his psychosis, instead showing it to be a part of his life, not becoming the whole.
The book shows the plight of the schizophrenic in Nash's transition from one of society's blessed, a brilliant mathematician and scholar, to a chronic sufferer of the illness. The slow erosion of his mind, coupled with his family's efforts to first deny, then resignedly commit Nash to care forms a poignant insight into the problems faced by both the ill, and their families. We watch as Nash's acute intellect is slowly reduced to a point where, riddled by hallucinations and delusional behavior, he becomes a "phantom", a cipher wandering the hallways of Princeton, scrawling cryptic messages on its blackboards.
As Nash's illness grew, so did his family's distress regarding maintaining his care. With little or no real information, or counsel about both Nash's care, or their ability to cope, his wife, sister, and elderly mother faced the sometimes crushing weight of responsibility for him, which can, at times, bring on symptoms of psychiatric illness in the caregiver.
In the book's conclusion, a juxtaposition between the surprising remission of Nash's illness, and the onset of his son Johnny's own schizophrenia displays both the hope, and the reality of those afflicted. In Nash, we see the chance for surcease, the possibility of a person returning to some semblance of normalcy. His son's illness, however, remind us of the far more common eventuality; schizophrenia still will dominate the lives of those affected, and they and their families too often will endure it in isolation, and silence.
For me, A BEAUTIFUL MIND is a tragically beautiful book, one I highly recommend.
Micheal Head, Reviewer.
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