It’s starting again: the loud buzzing in his ears, the crows following him everywhere, the cold sweats and paranoia, and the voice in his head. Miles had a schizophrenic breakdown two years ago on the beach near his San Francisco home and he’s blamed himself every day since for the destruction it caused his family. He’s supposed to be managing his disease with a cocktail of meds and weekly talk therapy, but he knows it isn’t working, and he’s gotta do something to fix his broken brain and his damaged family: “Sick. Schizo. And it really only feels like a matter of time before they find me like that – sleeping in rags, riding the bus all day long ’cause I got nowhere else to go. Just a matter of time.” (26)
Miles settles on a reckless plan, but one he knows will fix everything: track down the man who kidnapped his younger brother Teddy that day from the beach when everyone else was distracted by Miles’s breakdown. Miles doesn’t believe, like everyone else seems to, that Teddy is dead. He knows, he can feel it, that Teddy is alive, and he alone can piece together the clues so many overlooked to track down the kidnapper and rescue his brother. Complicating matters beyond the point of madness, the girl with whom Miles had a secret friendship (and a major crush) has come back into his life, bringing with her both confusion and longed-for comfort. But Miles finds Eliza’s mixed messages as alluring as they are distracting; adding them to the stress of his secret search for Teddy, the ever-present crows, and the incessant whisperings of voice in his head, drives Miles to a last desperate act to find relief.
Nic Scheff‘s Schizo is a starkly honest, painfully real journey into darkness and beyond. As unreliable as a narrator can be, Miles’ downward spiral “my mind unravels like a ball of string rolling down an unending staircase” (106), is candid, gripping, and captivating. I could not look away from the foggy gray San Francisco skies, flecked with big black crows, calling out to me to witness the confusion, the struggle, and eventually, finally, thankfully, the triumph over a painful, mysterious disease: “It’s the shame and f***ing secrets that will kill me. They almost did before. And they totally will again – if I’m not ‘rigorously honest,’ as they kept saying in treatment. To tell the truth about who I am and what’s going on with me, that is everything. Sharing. Asking for help. I gotta do that sh*t. I gotta try.” (255) Indeed, I walk away from Miles believing that one true message: whatever the demon is that haunts you, its power over you lies in the darkness and the secrets. The only way out, the only way through, is by speaking up and telling your truth.
- Posted by Cori