Schizophrenia – 1968 (A Poem)

1965 Edition of I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

1965 Edition of I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

I am fourteen
lying in a hospital bed
trying to ignore the mocking voices
that have haunted me
ever since a séance
gone horribly wrong

Twice a day I am given Thorazine
to make the voices go away
but I seem to be the one
who is going away instead

I am floating in the void between
lunch and dinner
when she comes into the room
wearing a faded blue dress
stretched much too tight
on her plump post-pregnancy figure

My mother does not say hello
kiss my cheek
or give me a hug
she does not ask how I am feeling
or inquire what it’s like
to be incarcerated
on a psych ward

“Here.”
Mother thrusts a book at me
automatically my hand opens and takes it

“I want you to read this.”
Her words are clipped, her voice cold
a thin veneer covering an old familiar rage

“This is a true story about a teenage girl
who was also diagnosed with schizophrenia
Her life was wonderful, her family had money
they lived in a grand house with servants to wait on them
but she became schizophrenic despite all her advantages
Read this book and you will see –
schizophrenia has no known cause and no known cure
you inherited this from your father
nothing I did could have caused it.”

Wrapping her anger tightly about her like a worn-out shawl
my mother turned and left
her heels clicking down the hallway

I have loved to read, more than anything
ever since second grade
I look at the book in my hand
and study the picture on the cover
a sad-faced girl with long dark hair
a pretty girl, a schizophrenic
just like me

I open the book and turn to the first page
I love to read, more than anything
but the Thorazine has muddled my mind
words jump around on the page, incomprehensible
I did not know until this moment
that I could no longer read

I put the book in a drawer
lay my head on the pillow and close my eyes
I try not to hear the mocking voices say

“Schizophrenia has no known cause
and no known cure.”

Lynda Lee
December, 2014

3c2_Mother_Me_508PS: As I learned many years later, after the voices were gone and I could finally read I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN, my mother was wrong in her interpretation of Hannah Green/Joanne Greenberg’s book. Although it was not yet widely known in the 1960s, the sixteen-year-old girl who is the subject of this book did fully recover from her psychosis – and she did so without the use of psychotropic drugs, electroshock, or psychosurgery.

Most encouraging of all, the one-time “schizophrenic teenager” herself wrote I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, another fact not widely known when my mother gave me the book. Joanne Greenberg, now in her 80s, has written a number of other published works, as well.

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ABOUT COMMENTS: I have disabled comments to focus on writing my memoir. In the meantime, you may contact me on Twitter via @LadyQuixote.

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About Lynda Lee

Lynda Lee is my pen name. I am a former nurse, a Mensa member, and a writer, diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by extreme trauma and narcissistic abuse. Formerly agnostic, I am now a Christian. My husband, a USMC Vietnam War Veteran and a Chaplain, has PTSD caused by combat. We've come a long way on our healing journey and we still have a ways to go. We put the FUN in dysfunctional. :-)
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