'My Schizophrenic Life' is a memoir about Sandra Yuen Mackay's experience of living with schizoaffective disorder. It is ultimately a book about how Sandra has coped with the illness and more importantly the lessons she has learnt from it and how she has been able to recover, although the author does still suffer from symptoms but has now been able to find a way to almost control the effects. The book is a fascinating and compelling story giving valuable insight of the view of the world from the perspective of someone with a mental illness. Sandra's story will definitely benefit anyone who may be currently living with a diagnosis or suffering from any type of mental illness, as Sandra has described how she was able to seek help and find different techniques to stop or reduce the severity of some of her symptoms. This book will also help anyone living with or caring for a relative or friend who may be suffering from schizoaffective disorder.
Sandra has told the story of her 30 year battle with the illness. At first she was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. It highlights the fact that mental illness is something that is very difficult to diagnose, as there are many different symptoms and each individual suffers in different ways; the triggers for the symptoms will vary from person to person.
In many ways this book is important as it breaks down a barrier of ignorance about mental illness. Here we are told a story by a very intelligent, creative woman who works as an artist and writer and has used her experience of suffering with this disorder to help others, by taking part in talks and public speaking.
Sandra's symptoms began when she was a teenager, and I found it fascinating to read about the way she would hear and see things that were not there and have profound delusions and paranoia. In some ways there are so many things from Sandra's memories of her teenage years that everyone could relate to. Paranoid feelings, delusion and depression are things that we have all felt to some degree in our lives, but the way these things would manifest in Sandra's mind shows just how frail our vision of reality can be and how easily it can be distorted when there is a chemical imbalance in the brain causing mental illness.
By reading Sandra's story I personally feel that I have learnt a great deal about how Schizophrenia can affect someone's life, and her story has illuminated for me a subject which seems to carry an unworthy stigma. I have always believed that mental illness is just like any other illness and yet the mentally ill are generally feared and treated as if it is almost their fault that they have this illness. I felt that the way many of Sandra's therapists spoke to her when she was a teenager showed a general ignorance about mental illness.
Sandra Yuen Mackay's book is very important as a bridge to understanding how a mentally ill person feels. She is a great advocate and has put her story across in a way that is compelling and easy to understand. I would recommend this book to everyone. Its worth is not only in helping to dispel certain myths surrounding mental illness, but it's also the story of a person who has overcome great adversity and is now successful and an example to us all.