Prime Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through SchizophreniaAuthor Pamela Spiro Wagner –

Pamela is a very gifted writer Carolyn less compelling Still, a fascinating look at twins, one of whom has schizophrenia, from both points of view Read it especially for the chance to hear about how psychosis feels from the inside Pamela, like many with schizophrenia, does not admit or believe she has the illness Still, that does not take anything away from her insightful narrative Carolyn is a psychiatrist, so her views are educational and emotional as well. I chose this book for research purposes characters in my novel are twins boy and girl and one is schizophrenic and had high hopes It s hard to give this book two stars because it s essentially a dual narrative, and I very much like one of those narratives Clearly, Pamela Wagner, the twin suffering from schizophrenia, is a substantial talent I was not surprised to learn she was a decorated poet In fact, in her narration of her extreme schizophrenia, I felt able to see to really feel, actually how these delusions can feel very real How they can have the structure and the plausibility of something real The coolness of her narration heightened the emotions the sign, to me, anyway, of an expert writer Carolyn, on the other hand, while successful professionally and clearly quite intelligent herself, grew unlikable as a narrator the deeper I got into the book If I had been the editor, I would have suggested some judicious cuts For example, no doubt Carolyn has been through hell and back and experienced torment that few of us can even imagine However, her tone was self pitying, self focused, and sometimes downright petty I think her plight would have provoked far emotion in me if she had simply laid it out as it happened rather than reminding me, the reader, how burdened she was by her sister s illness, and then how ashamed she was for feeling that way But the pettiness in particular got to me For example, I tired of hearing her describe her sister s weight gain on one of the anti psychotics To me that s a one and done comment, especially since Pamela mentions it as a reason why she would quit the drug, but it appeared again and again in Carolyn s narrative I was completely flabbergasted by her unfair treatment of her ex husband in the book, when it had absolutely nothing to do with the narrative of her sister s schizophrenia To lay out his faults including her assessment of his lack of sexual prowess felt deeply unfair and irrelevant, and I think it was at that point when I turned I have no idea why Carolyn s editor at St Martin s didn t save her from this mistake I was also flummoxed by Carolyn s seeming lack of understanding of schizophrenia when she has not only treated schizophrenics in the past, but is apparently a highly respected psychiatrist When it came to Pamela, it was as if she d never heard of schizophrenia before, was unable to make sense of what I think are fairly trademark symptoms even after Pamela was diagnosed I certainly believe that she had a blind spot, but I would have liked to have had her explore this blind spot in depth rather than spend time on her blasted ex husband or her new lover Johan What was her experience as a psychiatrist like What kind of psychiatrist was Carolyn How did she approach her work Didn t she go into this line of work because of her sister It seemed to me that Carolyn limited her narration to her experience of phone calls in the middle of the night from mental hospitals, her visits to those hospitals, and the domestic issues going on in the background I would very much have liked to have known about Carolyn s professional experience, her accomplishments, her approach to her work, and how that might tie back to her experience with her sister So clearly I was disappointed by that aspect of the dual narrative, and I suspect that early readers of the manuscript or even her later editors may have pushed her to include banal details about her personal life to demonstrate how Carolyn was the one able to live a normal life while Pamela had to live in this prison of her mind I just don t think it worked But I m grateful they ve shared their stories. Growing Up In The Fifties, Carolyn Spiro Was Always In The Shadow Of Her Intellectually Dominant And Social Outgoing Twin, Pamela But As The Twins Approached Adolescence, Pamela Began To Succumb To Schizophrenia, Hearing Disembodied Voices And Eventually Suffering Many Breakdowns And Hospitalizations Divided Minds Is A Dual Memoir Of Identical Twins, One Of Whom Faces A Life Sentence Of Schizophrenia, And The Other Who Becomes A Psychiatrist, After Entering The Spotlight That Had For So Long Been Focused On Her Sister Told In The Alternating Voices Of The Sisters, Divided Minds Is A Heartbreaking Account Of The Far Reaches Of Madness, As Well As The Depths Of Ambivalence And Love Between Twins It Is A True And Unusually Frank Story Of Identical Twins With Very Different Identities And Wildly Different Experiences Of The World Around Them An absolutely riveting memoir Recommended, but with a caution for language Very true to the patient and familial stories I ve head in primary research This is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the experience of the person with schizophrenia Pamela Spiro Wagner is a gifted writer and poet, and shares the gut wrenching agony of her disease with brutal honesty. One of the BEST books I have read in a while It is the story of twin sisters , written jointly yet with two individual voices They begin their story in re telling of events from early childhood through the eyes of twins sibling rivalry magnified because of being twins and a deep connection love for each other because of being twins The back and forth writing style drew me in I heald my breath as I read what one had written about a certain event or time period in their lives , anticipating what the other had to say when they shared their account of the same event time period It soon became appearant there is to the story than two different perspectives Pammy is diagnosed with schizophrenia From there the story is told from the mind of a mentally ill person and her twin who lives through the horrors with her.They continue their back and forth approach to sharing their lives one in the throws of illness , drug therapy , hallucinations and the other caught up by guilt , sorrow , anger Such a sad story , but one that has you wishing the pages would never run out. One sister went to Harvard and became a psychiatrist, the other, though also brilliant, was bedeviled by voices and has spent her life in and out of institutions The part describing their growing up years was interesting as the twins tried to establish their own identities Each was competitive yet felt bad for trying to get distance.The schizophrenic sister is unable to get her health or life together, but becomes an award winning poet Later, the narrative bogs down when it seems clear that the sick sister isn t going to get better, despite different medications and treatments It s sad and obviously hard for the well sister, but the story pretty much ends here.It s annoyingly written there s a big drama about whether one of the well sister s psychiatrist friends can or should treat the schizophrenic sister, and finally it s decided that she will But then two pages later she retires from practice What was that all about It ends without much resolution for anybody, with the contrast between the psychiatrist and the bag lady Pretty much like real life, but not a great story. 3.5 stars Extremely fascinating to read about schizophrenia from the perspective of the twins It was also heartbreaking to read how again and again the treatments did nothing at all, or had such negative side effects as to render the positives moot This book left me with a lot to think about It wasn t a happy book, as so much of it is still up in the air, still something to be dealt with on a daily basis Good look into the world of mental health, psych wards, medication, family and mental illness and the continual struggle Don t read if you re looking for something uplifting and happy though That said, it s real And hard And something that needs to be examined closely in today s society. Really insightful and scary memoir that consists of a back and forth narrative between a pair of twins, one of whom is a schizophrenic poet and the other a psychiatrist I think the childhood scenes were the strongest for me with all of Pamela s hospitalizations it was hard to follow the chronology in later sections of the book I do wish the girls relationships with their father had been fleshed out it sounds like it is or was a very abusive relationship that affected Pamela s disease course than the book admitted Overall, though, the book is brutally honest, and I look forward to reading Pamela s poetry. I had a lot of reasons for why I wanted to read this book The first was that I am a twin, so there was something to learn and identify with regarding the struggles of constant comparison, the path to seeking individuality and the toll these things take on the relationship The second was my interest in mental illness and that I knew very little of the daily struggles facing someone with schizophrenia What a gift these two sisters gave, not only to myself other readers, but to the mental health community as a whole This book is as much a story of the relationship between two sisters, as a documentation of what happens to someone s mind life when suffering with schizophrenia The voices, the hospital stays, the daily disappointments, the breakdowns, the psychosis, the medicines treatments, and the countless doctors mixed with the ever changing societal views of people with mental illness the evolving medical practices make this book a time capsule in itself When Pamela had her first breakdown, it was in the late 1960 s while away at college Having a basic understanding of the evolution of mental illnesses in both the public view medical practices will give this book context Though Pamela displayed classic symptoms of schizophrenia throughout childhood adolescence, even as early as 6 years old, the awareness for this illness was not where it is today, nor was the compassion Hindsight is 20 20 It is great fortune that both Pam Carolyn are talented writers Hearing the same story, eloquently written from their differing perspectives, gave a holistic view of their lives showing how the disease not only wreaked havoc on Pamela s life, but on Carolyn s as well This style leant itself nicely to the common psychological issues of being a twin in adolescence On a personal level, I connected very deeply with a lot of what they faced Though my sister and I will never deal with something as frustrating as chronic schizophrenia, we do share a lot of the other things associated with being twins There is this memory that both Carolyn Pamela share about getting ready for school Pamela hasn t taken a shower for days Carolyn is embarrassed saying but people will think I am you or something to that effect Pamela can only simply tell Carolyn that she Carolyn makes it look so easy This small memory brought back memories of my own when my sister couldn t understand why she didn t feel like wearing makeup or using a purse The pressures from society telling her something was wrong with her, and the guilt that I had for being normal reminded me of how Carolyn must have felt as she got older In a way, this book has helped me recognize where some of these feelings originated, and achieve resolution through their story. It seems wrong to say you liked or enjoyed a book about two sisters lives of misery, but I certainly found it a fascinating read It was amazing that Pamela was able to chronicle her schizophrenia in such detail and from such a young age Both sisters were very brave to put this all into a book for all the world to see and judge The only thing I would have changed about this book is insight into the disease Like, whenever Pamela was on an anti psychotic drug that quieted the voices and made her not want to kill herself, she promptly went off it when not under strict supervision Why does one choose that