The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

A1a-mCOkXRLFrom an outsider’s view, Wang’s identity stands apart from the common conception of someone with schizoaffective disorder—she is ivy-league educated, exceedingly well-dressed, and “high-functioning” when she is not in the grips of psychosis. After being kicked out of her university for her mental health status, Wang begins a never ending journey into a health system whose diagnoses, treatments, and policies are often at odds with her autonomy and humanity.

As her schizoaffective disorder is compounded by PTSD and chronic Lyme disease, Wang strives to embrace the liminal spaces she has no choice but to inhabit. She learns how she might be able to keep herself tethered to reality just enough to find peace and engage with the insights that her psychotic episodes may have to offer. Her essays both illuminate the outer workings of her mental illness while documenting the terrifying ways that her sense of self is swept away time and again.

“When the self has been swallowed by illness, isn’t it cruel to insist on a self that is not illness?” At the core of this essay collection is this simple question. In it, Wang asks us whether it is really an act of generosity when we make a distinction between a person and the illness that makes up their reality (e.g. calling someone a schizophrenic versus a person suffering from schizoaffective disorder). In whose service do we define this boundary, and what is it that we value in other people that makes them worthy of love and respect?

The Collected Schizophrenias offers so much of Wang–her most vulnerable uncertainties and darkest delusions, alongside a wealth of information about the diseases known as the schizophrenias. She presents all of this with a humility and eloquent clarity that make her story unforgettable.

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