The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness
Elyn R. Saks
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Elyn R. Saks is an esteemed professor, lawyer, and psychiatrist and is the Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California Law School, yet she has suffered from schizophrenia for most of her life, and still has ongoing major episodes of the illness. The Center Cannot Hold is the eloquent, moving story of Elyn's life, from the first time that she heard voices speaking to her as a young teenager, to attempted suicides in college, through learning to live on her own as an adult in an often terrifying world. Saks discusses frankly the paranoia, the inability to tell imaginary fears from real ones, the voices in her head telling her to kill herself (and to harm others); as well the incredibly difficult obstacles she overcame to become a highly respected professional. This beautifully written memoir is destined to become a classic in its genre.
The title is a line from "The Second Coming," a poem by William Butler Yeats, which is alluded to in the book.
English literature. Eight years my senior, Kenny came from a small town in Tennessee with, as he put it, “a population of one hundred eighty-four and shrinking.” He was married to his college sweetheart, Margie, who was somewhat more reserved than Kenny, but sweet and welcoming. Together, they presented a picture of the kind of life I tried to imagine for myself someday—two people who obviously cared deeply for each other, an apartment filled with books and music, in a community of intellectual
he did. I got good grades and made sure he knew it; he worked just as hard and made the grades, too. Dad was not a praiser (he thought it would invite the evil eye), so he never complimented anyone. But Mom did, and Warren and I competed for her attention. As for Kevin, there were enough years between us that for a long time I thought of him as my child. One of my earliest, clearest memories is when he began to crawl, and how thrilled I was about that, to see him learn to make his way from one
the behavior, instead of the damaged mental capacity of the patient. In spite of being perceived by the patients as some sort of authority figure—“on the other side of the medication counter,” so to speak—I usually empathized more with them than with the hospital staff. In truth, I sometimes felt oddly competitive with the patients, weighing in my mind which of us was sicker, they or I. After all, I was seeing Mrs. Jones every day, and I was having ongoing psychotic thoughts. Yet here I was,
consequences of being civilly committed to a psychiatric hospital are severe and can be long-lasting. For instance, many application forms (such as an application to sit for the bar exam) ask whether one has ever been civilly committed. I didn’t know it then, but there would a come a day when I would be very happy that I wasn’t compelled to check the “yes” box. So, following my dad’s advice, I signed the voluntary. Then I discovered some stunning news—MU10, without my permission or knowledge,
genome has helped shift the focus to a genetic predisposition for the disease. As with many families, there is serious mental illness in my extended family as well. Schizophrenia tends to emerge at different times for men than for women. For men, the first “breaks” tend to happen in the late teens or early twenties. For most women, things begin to fall apart later, usually in the mid-twenties. But before the illness truly manifests, there is a stage—called the prodrome—when it slowly becomes