The Collected Schizophrenias

A nonfiction book by Esmé Weijun Wang.

Esmé Weijun Wang

Powerful, affecting essays on mental illness, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and a Whiting Award. An intimate, moving book written with the immediacy and directness of one who still struggles with the effects of mental and chronic illness, The Collected Schizophrenias cuts right to the core. Schizophrenia is not a single unifying diagnosis, and Esmé Weijun Wang writes not just to her fellow members of the "collected schizophrenias" but to those who wish to understand it as well. Opening with the journey toward her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Wang discusses the medical community's own disagreement about labels and procedures for diagnosing those with mental illness, and then follows an arc that examines the manifestations of schizophrenia in her life.

In essays that range from using fashion to present as high-functioning to the depths of a rare form of psychosis, and from the failures of the higher education system and the dangers of institutionalization to the complexity of compounding factors such as PTSD and Lyme disease, Wang's analytical eye, honed as a former lab researcher at Stanford, allows her to balance research with personal narrative. An essay collection of undeniable power, The Collected Schizophrenias dispels misconceptions and provides insight into a condition long misunderstood. (From Graywolf)

From the book

A crucial concept in the discussion of schizophrenia, psychotic disorders, and treatment is that of how far the possession goes — or, in psychiatric terms, the level of "insight" the individual is capable of. To have poor insight is to have a lack of awareness about one's own condition. A fundamental argument for forcible treatment is that the unwell individual simply doesn't understand that they're ill, and therefore lacks the ability to decide for themselves whether, for example, to take the recommended medication.

Whether a person diagnosed with severe mental illness will take medication is an issue that repeatedly comes up in communities affected by mental illness; psychiatrists use the pejorative term "medication noncompliant" to describe those patients who won't take recommended medications, no matter the reason for the patient's decision.

From The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang ©2019. Published by Graywolf.