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I am writing this short article to fight negative stereotypes associated with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a poorly understood topic in our society. These days, with medication and talk therapy, recovery from even very serious mental illness is not only possible, but, with proper treatment, probable. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Read on, and open your mind.
It is a health issue. I was a “normal” kid, loved by my mom and brothers, and dad always made sure we were ok. Athletic, well-liked and popular at Stuyvesant High School, the number one high school in New York City, my mid-teen years were joyful. Later, at State University of New York at Stony Brook I achieved senior status and #1 status at the competitive applied math program, at the tender age of nineteen. I earned straight A in applied mathematics to the upper division, the top student at one of the top applied math programs in the world. The semester before my first psychotic break, I signed up for twenty-three credit hours, about a double full-time credit load. The classes lined up were honors physics, data structures, econometrics, masters level game theory for economists, and Chinese, among a few others. The future looked bright. I had a girlfriend who I very much wanted to marry. I worked a job or three. The view from the top of the world was heady. I was aware of what my accomplishments were, maybe there was a touch of hubris, unhealthy pride. In any event, they say “pride cometh before the fall”, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall. My ego, big and proud, fell hard, as I plummeted into the deadly abyss of insanity.
Stress causes many problems in life, both physical and mental. Critical life choices including finances were being mismanaged, and stress was one big reason I had my first psychotic break. Later, as I discovered as a psychiatric library chief there were also other reasons for my unfortunate fall from sanity: being a premature winter birth, being born to an older father, having a mother with an under-active thyroid, a stressful early childhood, having a low fatty fish content in my diet, having sub-optimal magnesium levels, not taking a good multivitamin, being sleep deprived, working seven days per week without a break for years, studying long hours for seven days per week, and, finally, having both bipolar and psychosis expressed in the genetics of the family. Yeah, unbeknownst to me, I was a ticking clock, waiting to go off, and my time eventually ran out.
I had a total psychotic break with reality at the age of nineteen. I was hospitalized for nearly two months, at Stony Brook University Hospital just a mile from my old “successful” life at University- so close but truly a whole world away. Following my descent into total madness and paranoia, eventually, I learned to cope. As mom correctly has pointed out to me, “Will, recovery for you is a journey. You are never ‘Recovered’.” I found meaning in life by learning about my illness and psychiatry in general, so I would “know my enemy”. Years later I was invited to write as a freelance journalist for City Voices, the mental health newspaper based out of NYC, founded by famous mental health advocate Kenneth Steele back in 1995. My life’s mission was transformed into helping others in my shoes.
At nineteen, during my first psychotic break, my thoughts were thus:
“In the psych ward, I felt that this must be how Jesus felt. Jesus was wrongly persecuted in his life. Just as I am being persecuted. I could have been a drug dealer many times in my life, picked up a gun and settled a few scores, or just become some kind of loser. I could have become someone with no future who didn’t try. I could have been someone who didn’t work hard, as a janitor to pay their way through college. I’ve had a hard life, I thought. I don’t deserve to be treated this way. It’s not right. But, Jesus forgave his enemies. And so will I. Because I thought I knew exactly how Jesus felt, I reasoned, I must be an incarnation of Jesus.
Images flew through my mind. There was an excellent movie called Amadeus which chronicled a possible but far-fetched theory that Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart may have been murdered by Salieri, a musical competitor of Mozart. At the end of the movie, after Salieri confesses to his role in the demise of Mozart, the priest looked shocked to find a heart so black. The scene cuts to Salieri being lead through the mental asylum, absolving his fellow inmates. “I absolve you” “I absolve you” he repeated to everyone he saw. He said this to the people in cages and the people in chains. He laughs an evil laugh and says, “I absolve everybody.” And the movie ends, and the credits roll. For some reason, this aspect of the movie Amadeus went through my mind the same instant I thought I was some kind of incarnation of Jesus. I, think that I, being a better person than Salieri, could truly absolve people. I think that people will recognize my goodness and feel better about being where they were. I walk around the room saying “I absolve you” to people who are there. What happened next, I did not expect….”
I like numbers, especially statistics. Roughly one percent of the world’s population develops schizophrenia. A bit more than one percent will develop bipolar disorder. About one in seven will develop an anxiety disorder. About one in seven, or more, will develop clinical depression. Think about it. If you go to a high school of 1,000 kids in just a few, short years 250 of you could be struggling with a major psychiatric issue, with or without co-occurring substance abuse. College is a crucible of stress and is made much worse by use of illicit drugs and drinking. Wife of President Ronald Regan, Nancy Regan, was right when she told kids of the 80s to “Just say No!”
So, why do these genes that can trigger serious and persistent mental illnesses still exist? One would think that these debilitating diseases would be bred out of the gene pool eventually. It’s like this, when one identical twin develops schizophrenia, the other twin has only a 50% chance of a psychotic break and consequent schizophrenia. Why? It seems genetics with schizophrenia is only 50% of the puzzle, and the mystery of the other 50% is embedded in the epigenome: the way the environment turns on off specific genes which either lead to health or illness. So, more than 50% of people who have the perfect genetics for schizophrenia will never develop the disease, and hence they are carriers. Carriers of what? Well, according to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory research, schizophrenia is a genetically complicated disorder of micro-additions and micro-deletions of genetic code. This is why they have not found one “schizophrenia gene”. It doesn’t exist. This is also why genetic therapies will have to be individualized and genetic codes sequenced, if medicine ever attempts a “cure” of the schizophrenia genetics.
Schizophrenia generally hits young men in late adolescence or early adulthood, whereas women develop the disorder in young adulthood, possible due to a protective role of estrogen. Either way, broadly speaking, in ten years time, after diagnosis, one-third of people diagnosed with schizophrenia generally completely recover, one-third stay about the same, and one-third get worse. Things like the THC in marijuana, a parasite called toxoplasma gondii sometimes found in cat fecal matter, and stress can cause people to “flip” on bad genes, causing a first psychotic break. So, please just say no to these things, my friends!
Despite my developing schizophrenia in my late teenage years and the fact that not every day is a good day, I have overcome many obstacles and accomplished much. Powerful, mind-numbing drugs have brought me down to Earth. Before medicines, I was able to read more than five hundred pages per day, do amazing feats of strength like run a half mile in under two minutes, and do a thousand push-ups in a day. No longer can I do these amazing feats of Will.
However, academically, I have graduated from a top university, with honors, then I earned an accredited Masters in Library Science. Professionally, spanning nearly a decade, I worked as a professor at CUNY Kingsborough’s Library and then at New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia Psychiatry as a respected library Chief at the #1 psychiatric research center in the world, part of a team of healers. Culturally, I am fluent in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. I feel I have an interesting worldview, inspired by the cultures behind the languages I have learned to love. I wish to explore more world languages and cultures. I have authored twenty-six books about mental health, literature, business, history, language learning, library science, weight loss and diabetes control, an internationally popular guide to the living culture of New York City, a guide to natural intelligence enhancement, and an “inspiring” memoir, A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope. I hope to keep writing in some capacity both in order to reach new readers and to explore new and exciting worlds both inside and outside myself.
In my professional life, the thing of which I am most proud is being one source of hope to people who may feel forgotten by life. The thing I am most proud of in my private life is the careful attention with which I have taken care of my family and friends, because I feel the most important thing in Life is Love. With all I’ve done so far, I feel my work here on Earth is not yet done. I have miles to go before I sleep. Wish me luck in writing my next chapters, my friends. I hope to keep on doing my own brand of positive thing for a while more, and I have promises to keep.
I close with a “poetic” quote of mine about chess:
I once saw a “deep” quote from a “Buddhist” Facebook Page concerning one of my favorite games, chess: “Once the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.”
I thought about my own struggle with schizophrenia and I felt that I could not let that nihilist have the last apt word. So, I penned the following response…
“So true! The game of Kings ends in this way… so poetic! Yet, the play of armies, led by Kings is the thing that separates the legends from the forgotten. Kings and pawns go to the same box, true, but it is how they played that makes all the difference. Not every King is named Arthur, and not every chess player is a Kasparov or a Fischer. As for the game of life as chess, we all eventually lose to Death. Death smiles at us all as we strategize and plan, but the best a man can do is follow the rules, smile back and play his damnedest, until it is his turn to rest. Life is not only about our final destination. It is also the journey we make, the others we touch, and the tales that are told! God gives burdens, also shoulders.”
I invite you to check out more of my poetry and art in The Poet of Washington Heights: A Scrapbook of Poetry, Photography, Digital Art, and Social Media, twenty three of my books in English, Spanish, and French can be found on my Amazon Author’s Page. Many of my ebooks are available on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, as well as other fine purveyors of the written word. Salud!
For quality medical information about schizophrenia: check out this information from NIMH
This is my curated list of Best Books about Schizophrenia
Please help me reach people who need my story of hope! Thank you!
Bienvenidos! My name is William Jiang, MLS and I was the Chief of the Patient Library at
Columbia Psychiatry / New York State Psychiatric Institute for almost a decade from 2004-2011. According to the Surgeon General, approximately one in one hundred people in the United States struggles with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is arguably the most devastating mental illness of them all. Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not multiple personality disorder. It is, rather, a break from reality. Many homeless people suffer from schizophrenia, and many with schizophrenia have auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations and delusions, or paranoia. The following were the best books about schizophrenia of the Columbia Psychiatry Patient Library during my tenure and of today.
I invite you to add your own favorite books about schizophrenia in the comments.
William Jiang, MLS
Kindle books 99 cents that you’d actually want to read? Yes! I was one of the Library Chiefs over at Columbia Psychiatry / New York State Psychiatric Institute for almost a decade, and from that career path I decided to write books about mental health and wellness. My Amazon Kindle books have been selling quite well over the years at $9.99 and up. My books have ranked at #1 in the United States, Mexico, Spain, Australia, and Japan. However, because I want to reach as many people as possible with my knowledge of mental health, language acquisition, e-commerce, and literature, I’m practically giving away all my Kindle titles now for only 99 cents. I can not sell them for less! Amazon will not let me! I’m also giving away all of my paperback books and audiobooks for the lowest prices Amazon is allow me to sell them. My Kindle Books for 99 cents are written in English, Spanish, and French. The titles that are available follow:
I invite you to visit my Amazon Author Page at http://www.amazon.com/author/williamjiang
By P. Benson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 11, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
This was a very informative book. Frankly, the statistics regarding deteriorating mental health were staggering. This book is more of a distilled version that gives you just the facts without any fluff. I would recommend this book to any reader concerned with their own mental health or seeking info for family or friends.
The focus of the book are the mental conditions themselves and the natural therapies that help them. I found the information to be well-researched. So much of it is just common sense but the book explains why it can work.
The book was refreshing and hopeful and contained so many outside resources, like support groups. Readers looking for an alternative treatment to medications should have a look at this book to get some new ideas.
5 Stars Guide to Natural Mental Health
By arkyon June 11, 2015
Format: Audible Audio Edition
Many of these mental disorders exist in my home and I wanted to get this book to help me to understand some of the natural ways to prevent these disorders from ever happening. I liked how the book showed how religion, exercise and staying active can keep you from getting depression and some of the other disorders. The book also talks about some of the negative effects of video games and how they can hurt your mind in the long term if played too long. I’m a big believer in natural health and curing things naturally. I loved this book and everything that it taught me. It’s very informative and explains things in a way that is easily understandable. This is a book that I would recommend to others who are suffering from mental disorders or know someone who is.
5 Stars- Great info in mental health
By padma on December 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mental illness is a widespread problem than most people realize it to be. Let’s face it. Either you recognized the symptoms in yourself or know someone afflicted with autism or depression or diabetes — the by products of modern lifestyle. With an younger brother diagnosed with autism, I was curious to know about the underlying factors. More importantly, what can you do about it? This was something pondering me for a long time. I believe I now have an much better understanding – thanks to this book, which busts a number of myths about mental illness. I found this book quite comprehensive and ‘readable’ compared to similar books on the topic. I always knew there were health benefits in natural therapies like yoga and mediation, but know I know why.
5 Stars Fantastic book, a must-read for everyone concerned about their mental health
By Dora Farkas “Author, “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.””on December 4, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I highly recommend this book to everyone who has ever experienced anxiety and depression. The author goes into depth to explain the scientific background for each of the strategies, yet the book is very easy to read and has many easy-to-implement tips.
As a coach for graduate students, I believe this book is an essential read for students and their parents. Given how much time students spend on computers and mobile devices, they might develop symptoms of digital addiction without realizing it. While most students need computers to complete their work, this book includes simple strategies to reduce the symptoms of digital addiction which include depression, anxiety, and poor sleep.
I was very impressed by the section on depression, because it includes a plethora of natural and inexpensive remedies, that could complement traditional Western Medicine.
Overall, the book is very well-written. It is clear that the author planned it with the reader in mind, as all the sections complement each other, so it is a fantastic reference for mental health patients and their families.
5 Stars- `Socialization is very important for everyone, and people with schizophrenia are no exception.’
ByGrady HarpHALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon November 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
For those new to the name William Jiang, his following book is highly recommended: `A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope’ William Jiang was the Chief Librarian of the New York State Psychiatric Institute Patient and Family Library, affiliated with Columbia University, for seven years. This book focuses on the knowledge about Complementary and Alternative Health treatments for select mental issues that he gleaned over seven years of following the mental health literature during that time. The thrust of the book is mental health, nutrition, and complementary therapies.
In one of the more comprehensive books written to date about natural treatments of mental health deviations form the norm, William Jiang makes it abundantly clear how each of the many mental health problems that grow in number daily can be approached form a natural manner. In addition to the usual problems we would expect to be discussed, Jiang offers an enlightening look at Digital Addiction – and the book is well worth purchasing simply for this very valid approach.
The topics covered are as follows: Mental Health in General: Grandma was Right (an hilarious but very on target opener!), About Digital Addiction: Video Games and Depression: A Dangerous Mix, Video Game Addiction, Internet Addiction Can Physically Harm the Brain, Facebook Addiction Correlates to Time Spent on Facebook, Severe Depression, Anxiety, and Insomnia and Other Problems, Misuse of Light and Depression, Internet Pornography Addiction, Smartphone Addiction,
Texting Addiction, A strategy to combat digital addition; About Depression -Omega-3s and Depression, Prevention, Vitamin D and Depression, Antioxidants and Depression, Saint John’s Wort and Depression, SAM-e for depression Reviewed along with Omega-3s and St. John’s Wort, Meditation and Yoga for Workplace Depression and Anxiety, Yoga Breathing for Depression, Prayer and Depression, Prayer and a Stronger Brain, Sleep and Depression, Chronotherapeutics and Depression, Exercise and General Mental Health, Running as an Antidepressant, The Air We Breathe and Depression, Significant Others and Depression, Laughter and Depression, Pets and Depression, Antacids and Depression, Nuts and Berries and Depression, NAMI & MDSG; About Bipolar Disorder – Bipolar and Magnesium, Bipolar and Omega-3s, Bipolar and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), Chronotherapeutics and Bipolar, Meditation for Bipolar Anxiety, Sleep Hygiene and Bipolar Disorder; About Anxiety – Omega-3s and Anxiety, Exercise, Meditation, and Yoga for Anxiety, Earthing and Anxiety, Aromatherapy and Anxiety, Exercise for the Treatment of Anxiety, Music and Anxiety, Laughter and Anxiety; About Schizophrenia – Omega-3s and Schizophrenia, Marijuana and Schizophrenia, Magnesium and Myelination, Glutathione and Psychiatric Medications, Exercise and Schizophrenia, Nutrition and Weight Management, Eating Right and Schizophrenia: Nuts, Dark Chocolate and Weight Loss, Fiber and Weight Management, The Mediterranean diet and Keeping a Healthy Weight, The Asian Diet and Maintaining a Healthy Weight, Brain Training and Schizophrenia, Theanine and Schizophrenia, Meditation and Schizophrenia, Metformin and Weight Gain, The Role of Milk Thistle in Helping Fatty Liver in People who take Antipsychotic Medications, Inflammation and Schizophrenia, Pets and Schizophrenia, Socialization and Avoiding Isolation, and Work and Education.
Jiang writes very well and offers a different perspective on how to think about and how to cope with and how to treat or prevent mental disorders. Health is his goal and he presents it well. As he states at the end of the book, `As technology gets more and more into our bones, we are losing some of the natural rhythms of life. Despite being indoors in climate-controlled environments, our minds and bodies are still inexorably linked to the changing of the seasons.’
Grady Harp, November 14
Two of my mental health books have been popular on Amazon this weekend. Due to some Twittering, I had two Amazon Kindle books in the category of books about schizophrenia. My autobiography, A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope peaked in the top 40, and my Guide to Natural Mental Health: Anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, Schizophrenia, and Digital Addiction: Nutrition, and Complementary Therapies Peaked at number 49. I have included a screenshot of “Guide” at #84 and Schizophrenic Will hanging in there at #100, late Sunday.
From the Fall 2009 NYSPI Patient Library Newsletter:
I was asked the day before Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Connelly visited PI if I would meet with her. The opportunity to meet the actress who portrayed John Nash’s wife in the award-winning movie A Beautiful Mind amazed me. Of course, I said yes. The evening before her visit, it was difficult for me to sleep because I was excited.
When Ms. Connelly arrived shortly after 10:30 am, I was ready to be as helpful to her as I could. She was to meet the director of NYSPI, Dr. Lieberman, after she left me, so I wanted our time together to be productive. It turned out she was studying for the lead role in the forthcoming movie, What’s Wrong with Virginia, where she will be playing an emotionally disturbed woman. Because of my personal battle with schizophrenia, she wanted to meet me. I answered some initial questions she had, then showed her some videos which featured me: AstraZeneca’s More Success Stories and our Spanishlanguage psychoeducational film, ¿Qué es la Esquizofrenia?. I was going to offer her a copy of my autobiography, A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope ,but she had already started reading an electronic copy. Then I answered a slew of other questions she had, and mentioned our community event for the film Canvas, which was of interest to her. Finally, I showed her other print and video resources she could use to learn about schizophrenia, and gave her a NARSAD pamphlet on the subject. She told me a bit about the film, and I was happy to learn about the complexity and humanity of her role. At the end of our hour together, she thanked me for my time, and I told her it was a pleasure to meet her.
In retrospect, I was struck by her down-to-earth manner, intelligence, and genuine interest in learning more about schizophrenia as one facet of the human condition. I look forward to seeing her on the silver screen.
About Mr. Jiang: Schizophrenic. Psychotic. Insane. Too many people associate these words with murderer, useless, hopeless, and bum. Meet Will. At 19 he had his first psychotic break with reality. Afterwards, he had to re-learn his place in the world. He went from being a vibrant and gifted university senior, to being a mental patient on a locked ward for whom life was laborious and chaotic. In the beginning, he had to learn to cope with reality again minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, then year by year. Much later, after years of being a medical librarian, he was able to unlock some of his own brain’s healing potential using natural nutritional techniques. Now, at 41, his list of life accomplishments is impressive. Author of 13 popular Kindle books. Former Columbia University/NYSPI Medical Library Chief. Designer. Speaker of English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
His critically-acclaimed autobiography is “A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope“. Mr Jiang and his intense 20+ year struggle with schizophrenia is iconoclastic because he challenges us to think differently about stereotypes of mental illness. Most movies and media news paint one-dimensional, thinly drawn caricatures of mentally ill people, instilling fear. Refreshingly, words that could describe Mr. Jiang’s life and work include: brilliant, passionate, artistic, profound, knowledgeable, inspirational, and even “wise teacher”.
William Jiang BA MLS Mental Health Author and Advocate
Facebook Group: Living Well With Schizophrenia
Author Blog: http://www.mentalhealthbooks.net
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/williamjiang