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You have all the terror and confusion and the bizarre images and thoughts that you have in a nightmare.
In September, she was awarded a Mac Arthur Foundation “genius” grant. COOK: Can you describe your first experience with schizophrenia, I think you said that you were just 8 years old?
SAKS: I don’t think I would have been diagnosed as someone with childhood schizophrenia, but there were perhaps some early warning signs.
In 2007, she published an acclaimed memoir of her struggle with the disease, “The Center Cannot Hold.” Her book is a frank and moving portrait of the experience of schizophrenia, but also a call for higher expectations -- a plea that we allow people with schizophrenia to find their own limits.
If anything, she says, her work as a scholar has helped her to cope with the disease.
On the other hand, some parts of my job are stressful—e.g. I am fortunate to work at a law school willing to accommodate me around teaching.
Also traveling and giving talks is stressful for me; I usually decompensate the evening after I have given a talk, remaining in the land of psychosis for several hours.
I was also said to be “gravely disabled,” and the reason given was I couldn’t do my Yale Law School homework!
I was also forcibly medicated at times, though I usually realized I actually had no choice about whether to take the medication or not.
Only with a nightmare you then wake up, while with psychosis you can’t just open your eyes and make it all go away. Objectively, I have delusions (irrational beliefs like that I have killed hundreds of thousands of people with my thoughts); infrequent hallucinations (like watching a huge spider walk up my wall); and disorganized and confused thinking (e.g.
what are called “loose associations,” like “my copies of the cases have been infiltrated. I don’t believe in joints but they do hold your body together”).