I just finished reading a book called The Quiet Room – A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness. This book gives you a very intimate look in to the life of Lori Schiller who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her late 20’s and spent a total of four years in the hospital. Lori has been through cocaine addiction, suicide attempts, and multiple medication changes. Her symptoms began to surface during college at Tufts University.
The Quiet Room was different from other books of an individual’s account of mental illness because it had writings from Lori’s parents, brothers, former roommates, and doctors that treated Lori in the hospital. As a sibling of a mentally ill individual, it was important for me to read about other family members experiences. Lori’s younger brother was constantly scared that someday he too may be in the same place Lori was, that someday his mind might become sick. I know that these are feelings that I have had before and that my younger brother has experienced or will experience.
The book also gives you a patient’s perspective of her relationship with her parents. While in the hospital Lori struggled with having her parents visit. Lori says:
“much as I loved my parents, I felt like I was on stage for them too. I fought so hard to seem normal before them. I didn’t want them to know how sick I was. I didn’t want them to see me out of control. From the moment they arrived my struggle to keep control battled with my fear of losing control. I knew how much my illness hurt them. I knew how much they suffered for me. As much as I could, I wanted to keep the worst of it from them. I wanted them to be proud of me. I didn’t want to cause them heartache.”
I can imagine that other patients feel this way too. This passage reiterates to me the need for strong family support and letting the patient know that as a mother, father, sister, or brother you will be there for them no matter what.
Lori’s parents offer another perspective when they were struggling with separating drug addiction from illness. Lori’s mom Nancy writes:
“We couldn’t separate out her illness from anything else that might be affecting her. Lori’s moods were so unstable that she had initially been diagnosed as manic-depressive. She slept so little that her eyes were often bloodshot. And she was taking so much prescription medicine that there was hardly a time when her hands didn’t shake.”
Finally, Lori’s doctor who helped get her stabilized gives the reader a good description of schizophrenia, a disease that can be difficult to understand. “Schizophrenia is like a persons brain breaking. For the thing that has broken is the person’s ability to relate to another person. The thing that breaks is whatever it is that connects people to their environment, that allows them to recognize another person as someone outside of themselves.”
“People with schziophrenia are locked out of the outside world, and locked inside their heads with nothing but these wild, out-of-control thoughts emotion and thoughts. In people with schizophrenia the normal emotions – or push back into the recesses of our minds – run amok. Emotions that would normally be comfortably catalogued as unacceptable take on a life of their own as voices that seem more real than the real world outside.”
Throughout The Quite Room Lori struggles to accept the fact that she is sick. She also struggles to realize that she will never be the same person she was before her illness began. Doctors work with her not to get her back to where she was but to get her to a place where she can function.
I will not spoil the book and reveal what the quite room actually is but I encourage anyone looking for a summer read to get this book.