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The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness Hardcover – August 14, 2007
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A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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Elyn Saks is a success by any measure: she's an endowed professor at the prestigious University of Southern California Gould School of Law. She has managed to achieve this in spite of being diagnosed as schizophrenic and given a "grave" prognosis -- and suffering the effects of her illness throughout her life.
Saks was only eight, and living an otherwise idyllic childhood in sunny 1960s Miami, when her first symptoms appeared in the form of obsessions and night terrors. But it was not until she reached Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar that her first full-blown episode, complete with voices in her head and terrifying suicidal fantasies, forced her into a psychiatric hospital.
Saks would later attend Yale Law School where one night, during her first term, she had a breakdown that left her singing on the roof of the law school library at midnight. She was taken to the emergency room, force-fed antipsychotic medication, and tied hand-and-foot to the cold metal of a hospital bed. She spent the next five months in a psychiatric ward.
So began Saks's long war with her own internal demons and the equally powerful forces of stigma. Today she is a chaired professor of law who researches and writes about the rights of the mentally ill. She is married to a wonderful man.
In The Center Cannot Hold, Elyn Saks discusses frankly and movingly the paranoia, the inability to tell imaginary fears from real ones, and the voices in her head insisting she do terrible things, as well as the many obstacles she overcame to become the woman she is today. It is destined to become a classic in the genre.
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It renewed the sense that I chose the right field -- of course I would be a mental health concentration! This resonated with me in so many different ways, and I have never had a moment of psychosis. It changed my lens I saw my grandmother in so many years ago (even though I was just a child- it helped me to understand behaviors that I could never had made sense of). It exposed me to new modalities I knew nothing about, and has made a big impact on the type of clinician I will become.
Elyn is one of the most resilient individuals I have ever heard about. There were parts of the book I literally sat to myself and said -- no way that happened and been in awe of her true story.
Elyn, if you are reading this (which you are probably not), but you are an inspiration and truly admirable for the struggles you have overcome - and I know you say you are an exception to the rule, but your book alone has expanded my world and lens I can see people from. It makes me proud that you ended up at USC because that is where I am studying for an MSW -- FIGHT ON! That slogan seems to be so fitting for your life philosophy. I am glad you put yourself out there and used your name - you are a major force in changing mental health stigma. For that, I thank you. I work with children and their families who have mental health issues and will surely be recommending this book to many parents who lack empathy for their children with psychotic symptoms.