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Book Reviews   |    
My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery From Mental Illness

by Sandra Yuen MacKay ; Dundas, Ontario, Canada, Bridgeross Communications, 2010, 210 pages

Reviewed by Kathleen Crapanzano, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 2014; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.650104
View Author and Article Information

Dr. Crapanzano is assistant clinical professor of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.

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Is there hope for a meaningful, rich life after the diagnosis of mental illness? Although she makes no universal promises, Sandra Yuen MacKay shares her own inspiring story of living life with a serious mental illness while in pursuit of recovery. Ms. MacKay defines recovery as “having a fulfilling life, self-acceptance and social inclusion.” Her personal journey leads her to the discovery that her art and writing, as well as the love and support of her husband and family, are the keys to her eventual success.

Ms. MacKay’s autobiography traces the origins of her illness in the context of an otherwise unremarkable childhood. Her vignettes, laced with the descriptions of her experience of psychosis, illustrate the impact her illness has had on the trajectory of her life. As she matures, she is able to negotiate college and marriage, and she comes across as relatable and matter-of-fact. I found myself wanting to meet her. A constant in the story is the string of mental health professionals who interact with her along the way. Ms. MacKay sees the strengths and weaknesses of these collaborators but also realizes that their assistance and the use of the medication they prescribe have been crucial to her ultimate recovery.

In addition to appreciating her descriptions of the experience of being psychotic, I think her final reflections are what make her memoir particularly remarkable. This is the one place where she shares her own insights about her experiences; the rest of the book consists of a chronological telling of the facts of her life, without interpretation. While her style feels honest and straightforward, she generally appears to keep the reader at a distance from her private thoughts and feelings, depriving us of the powerful insights they hold.

In summary, Ms. MacKay’s book adds another first-person account of success in the face of serious mental illness. She has written a relatable, inspiring story that would be of interest to anyone trying to better understand the world of someone with a serious mental illness. In particular, people who are looking for hope and inspiration regarding recovery will find it in this book.

The reviewer reports no competing interests.

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