January First by Michael Schofield

January First: A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save HerJanuary First: A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her by Michael Schofield

My rating: ★★★☆☆

January First was tragic.
There's no other word for a child suffering undiagnosed schizophrenia than "tragic", and reading about a young couple struggling to not only manage their daughter's psychosis but also to get a diagnosis at all is equal parts stressful and heartbreaking.

January First was terrifying.
January First offers a paralyzing glimpse into the United States mental health industry and how it can (and does) go horribly, horribly wrong. If you, like me, have the tendency to involuntarily empathize with victims of tragedy--fictional or otherwise--the chapters dealing with Jani's periods of hospitalization are extremely difficult to read. Jani is treated like... there's no word for what Jani is treated like. She and many of her fellow sufferers are downright abused under the guise of medical care, and any attempts by her parents to intervene make it increasingly obvious that Jani isn't a patient so much as she's a prisoner. The passages about Jani's stays at these so-called mental health facilities, with only one exception, read like horror novel fare... or the introduction to a ghost story about the lost spirits of nineteenth-century asylums.

I can't possibly communicate how deeply these passages horrified me.

January First was frustrating.
Regardless of how terrible his situation is, Michael Schofield is a person with whom I never, under any circumstances, would want to interact. His obvious anger management issues and martyr complex make the passages about his relationship with his wife quite uncomfortable to read. His insistence that his daughter is not just a special needs child but a "genius" is insulting to the reader and equal parts understanding Jani's potential and self-deluding himself into thinking that she's not sick--she's just better than everyone else's children. But most of all, Michael Schofield always thinks he's right. From the way he tells it, Mr. Schofield is the only person on this earth who understands and can help Jani.

January First was harsher in hindsight.
Not knowing how to deal with one of the youngest, if not the youngest, diagnosed case of childhood-onset schizophrenia, the Schofields made a very large mistake: they hoped to pull Jani out of her undiagnosed psychosis by attempting to forge a bond between Jani and a hypothetical younger sibling. That younger sibling came into the world as Bodhi, a brother who immediately becomes the subject of Jani's wrath and exasperates her condition. But as the Schofields start to get a handle on how to manage their schizophrenic daughter through medication, therapy, and creative living arrangements, life starts to turn around. When the memoir ends, the Schofields still struggle to manage their very unfortunate circumstances but seem to have achieved quite a bit.

Unfortunately, if you've seen the Discovery Health special, Born Schizophrenic: Jani's Next Chapter, which was filmed quite a bit after this book was written but before it was published, you'll know that Bodhi is now also showing signs of psychosis and may also face a schizophrenia diagnosis. Wince-worthy doesn't cover that.

I definitely recommend January First to anyone with an interest in childhood schizophrenia. However, I recommend that anyone interested in reading this book sit down to watch the Born Schizophrenic documentary first; having seen both Schofield documentaries before even realizing this book existed, I'm sure my opinion of the book would have been vastly different had I not had prior experience with the Schofield family and their experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Professional Reader

Follow the Blog


follow us in feedly
© 2012 - 2017 Amara Tanith. Powered by Blogger.

Support the Blog

Amara's Eden is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.