June 10, 2005

Beating Schizophrenia #2

Hi, Here is a rewritten version of my part of LIVES column. Hope it is more to the point:

On November 17, 1952 I slid into the world with barely a whimper. Five minutes later, my twin sister tumbled out after me, kicking and squalling like she’d been hit by a thunderstorm instead of oxygen. Alike as two spoons, we knew without a doubt that we were identical. We answered in one voice, spoke each other’s thoughts, completed one another’s sentences. We were bound to one another as firmly as any conjoined set of twins. But others insisted on seeing in us polar opposites. To them, we couldn’t have been more different than if made from elements on opposite ends of the periodic table.

And this set the pattern for the next two decades. I was the steady, stoic twin, the twin who had no problems, no needs, no anger, no tears. I could be counted on to soothe my more needy twin whenever she went on a weeping jag or had a fit of temper, which seemed to me to be all the time. She was the screamer; I was the placid, untroubling, untroubled twin. I was the capable one, I was the golden girl; Lynnie was the social one, she just had to be with people. No one could have known how time would reverse our roles.

But when JFK was assassinated, the voices started, and though I told no one, terrible thoughts haunted me: I was sure I was to blame for the president’s death. Still, I didn’t let on that my world was falling apart. My grades suffered under the fears and pressures of public junior high so I transferred to a private school, without Lynnie. There I experienced a brief reprieve, but soon withdrew from extracurricular activities and refused to talk unless it was absolutely necessary. In one class, instead of conversing in French as the course required, I replied to direct challenges from the teacher with the words: Je n’ai rien a dire, “I have nothing to say”...and I remained mute the rest of the hour. The other students called me The Zombie. I had a car accident, because I “heard” the hallucinated voice of my headmistress tell me to step on the accelerator instead of the brakes.

In college, the hallucinations continued. I became paranoid, thinking every one was trying to hurt me: when a friend wore a red sweater it meant I was in danger. In desperation, I took an overdose and spent five months in the hospital. There I was put on anti-psychotic medication and gradually improved. Although I finally graduated from college and started medical school, I was soon back on a psych ward, suffering from the delusion that if I touched anyone I would be electrocuted.

Although I would not be diagnosed properly for a few years, the decades of cycling through hospitals and halfway houses, supervised living or living on my own in squalor that schizophrenia would initiate had begun.

Posted by pamwagg at June 10, 2005 04:11 PM


I believe the added information at the end of this version is an extremely valuable addition to the blog of June6. It graphically describes the sensations and the disruption of your life that occurred before your diagnosis was definitive. I cannot imagine living in the chaotic internal and external state which held you captive. To this day, I can honestly say that I have never encountered or read a biography(not even that of John Nash)that will enlighten the public on the unimaginable hell of living with your disease as your book will surely do. I have also never known anyone with such a steely will to lead the life her brilliance dictated she should live, despite the horrors that your book, ably written with Lynnie's point of view as well,will reveal. You are one of a kind, and I admire you more than I could ever accurately verbalize.
Lovingly, Paula

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at June 10, 2005 08:53 PM

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