Book Nook: The Center Cannot Hold – Elyn R. Saks

When I started my blog a few years ago, it was a place for me to write about my thoughts on mental health. I would write about things that I was feeling, and I’d share what I wanted others to know about what it’s like to struggle with mental illness.

Slowly this blog has morphed into a place for me to write about whatever happens to be on my mind, and, most recently, a platform to share my thoughts on books.

I enjoyed reading The Center Cannot Hold because it’s written from the perspective of somebody living with a serious mental illness. In this case, schizophrenia.

I’ve never had to deal with schizophrenia. However, having struggled with my own mental health for a period of my life, I love learning about what other people have gone through – and what some still do.

There are three different reasons why I recommend this book.

First, it’s a memoir. I love a well-written memoir.

Second, people often think that mental illness only affects unsuccessful people, or that somebody struggling with mental illness can’t be successful. Elyn Saks is proof that mental illness can affect anybody, and it doesn’t determine a person’s potential.

Saks finished her undergraduate degree as valedictorian, and later graduated from Oxford and Yale with multiple graduate degrees. She’s incredibly intelligent, and she is able to accomplish almost anything she sets her sights on.

Yes, she has schizophrenia. There are times in her life where she has psychotic breaks, and she looks, sounds, and acts like the stereotypical “crazy person”. But she has also spent years learning how best to manage her illness rather than letting her illness control her.

And third, the book shares differences in how medical professionals treat mentally ill patients in England vs. the United States. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to see how poorly she was treated in the States. However, I think it’s important to be humble enough to admit where we’re wrong and what we can learn from others.

There is a long way to go in regard to understanding mental illness. But Saks helps take us a few steps in the right direction.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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