I just finished reading Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia and want to share my thoughts. Yes, this book (like so many others I review) came out over a decade ago (2005), but the great thing about books is that people can find and fall in love with them years, decades, etc. after publication.
Divided Minds is a duel memoir written by twin sisters, Pamela (Pammy in much of the book) and Carolyn (occasionally known as Lynnie). Pamela has schizophrenia and Carolyn is a psychiatrist. This book starts with the women talking about their childhood, the ups and downs and the conflicts between them. The conflicts were of a nature that I imagine most twins have conflict – largely sibling rivalry.
As they enter middle school Pamela starts to experience her first symptoms of schizophrenia. One of the first truly notable delusions that she experienced was just after JFK was assassinated; as the teacher told the class what had happened, she became convinced that it was she who killed him despite being in a different state and in school when the assassination occurred. Pamela did not share these thoughts or her voices with anyone for a long time.
Though both women attended wonderful universities and both went on to medical school, only Carolyn was able to finish medical school and go to become an MD.
During medical school, Pamela experienced her first of countless hospitalizations. I don’t want to ruin the book for anyone who has not read it but plans to, so I am not going to detail much more of the women’s journeys, both individually and as sisters.
I have two quotes that I want to share. Although I have a different diagnosis from Pamela, some of our experiences, both external and internal, are similar.
“I wouldn’t mind running alone; it’s decent exercise and fairly straight-forward. But my inhibitions have grown to the point that I cannot allow my arms to swing freely but keep them locked at my sides, not matter how fast she has us go.”
Divided Minds, Page 83, Pamela
I have often found myself walking stiff and afraid to move or take up room. For me I find this is due to my social anxiety.
“The crunch of someone biting a piece of toast seems to contain the slime of his saliva as well as the gummy, disgusting mess inside his mouth. The slight slurpings of coffee or juice revolt me. Even the ding and clatter of silverware against cheap china are unbearable acoustic assaults…”
Divided Minds, Page 127, Pamela
I go through periods in which everything sounds extra loud and the sound of people eating is just too ugh. I find that my sense of smell is also elevated at times. I’m not sure why I get this. Sometimes it happens with hypomania, but often on it’s own as well.
Divided Minds is an excellent book that shows what it is like to have schizophrenia and what it is like to care about someone who does. I wish I had found and read this book before I wrote about schizophrenia in my educational series because nothing I have read or watched before pulled me so deep into the actual experiences of someone with this illness. I recommend this book to everyone and anyone but if you are currently in vulnerable spot with your own mental illness, I would recommend you wait until you feel you are in a better place. This book does discuss suicide, self harm, and experiences of treatment in an inpatient setting.