By Dina Al Qassar
By Sarah Rae
Rowman and Littlefield Publishers (2013)
Sarah Rae’s story is one of a sister who stood by her brother’s side when his world was falling apart. It is a story of love, friendship, perseverance and strength. A fascinating journey through pain, desolation, delusions, hope and optimism, The Fog of Paranoia is a tremendously moving and captivating read.
Sarah starts recounting her journey with her brother, Pat, even before the onset of his illness, paranoid schizophrenia. She starts with their childhood, the nature of their family and her close relationship with her brother. The Rae’s were a normal family, not perfect, but about as normal a family as one can expect. They never imagined that they would be impacted by mental illness.
Sarah explains how Pat was outgoing and extroverted, how he was smart, athletic, honest; she explains how he was not only her caring big brother but her best friend. The picture she paints in the reader’s mind of how her brother was before his illness starts to develop makes the changes that arise even more pronounced. The insidious onset of schizophrenia comes and it starts to slowly take a hold of his Pat’s life—his joy and happiness now replaced with suspiciousness and anger.
She recounts her struggles with trying to help her parents see that something is wrong with her brother, the difficulties she had trying to convince her brother to see a therapist, and also describes her own personal battles with mental illness in terms of anxiety and depression. However, the story isn’t all about pain and suffering. Sarah explains her brother’s experience with antipsychotics and therapy, highlighting both the negatives, such as side-effects of medications and finding the proper therapist; and positives, like the improvements that her brother experienced after finding the right medication. She talks about how her family was eventually able to seek help and support and move on with their lives while supporting her brother instead of being trapped in a state of denial.
The story of Sarah’s journey through her brother’s schizophrenia is holistic; she describes the effects and extents of the illness from all sides. She explains how schizophrenia affected her brother, her family, their extended family, work, etc. The Fog of Paranoia is an honest and realistic account of the illness that depicts what it is like to experience a serious mental illness first hand and simultaneously makes it very relatable and understandable.
She reflects on the severity of the illness without despair and shares hopes for a better future and her brother’s recovery with a sense of realism and understanding of the illness. Throughout her story, Sarah balances between a captivating narrative and scientific research, making it an informative and enjoyable read.
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