Following is an inspiring story about a woman with schizoaffective disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder that was published in the New York Times. I just wish there weren’t a small box the beginning of the article that sez: “This is the third in a series of profiles about people who are functioning normally despite severe mental illness and have chosen to speak out about their struggles.”
What I find problematic is that someone else (the NYT or Ben Carey or a random editor) is defining normal and not the interviewee herself. I don’t enjoy journalists or publications who write about other people (even admiringly) and contextualize the story in their (the journalist’s/publication’s) own terms. Normal. Phooey! But here is the story, Keris Myric is fascinating and I think a lot of us can relate to her.
A High-Profile Executive Job as Defense Against Mental Ills
PASADENA, Calif. — The feeling of danger was so close and overwhelming that there was no time to find its source, no choice but to get out of the apartment, fast.
Keris Myrick headed for her car, checked the time — just past midnight, last March — and texted her therapist.
“You’re going to the Langham? The hotel?” the doctor responded. “No — you need to be in the hospital. I need you consulting with a doctor.”
“What do you think I’m doing right now?”
“Oh. Right,” he said. “Well, O.K., then we need to check in regularly.”
“And that’s what we did,” said Ms. Myrick, 50, the chief executive of a nonprofit organization, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, a close cousin of schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. “I needed to hide out, to be away for a while. I wanted to pamper myself — room service, great food, fluffy pillows, all that — and I was lucky to have a therapist who understood what was going on and went with it.”
Researchers have conducted more than 100,000 studies on schizophrenia since its symptoms were first characterized. They have tested patients’ blood. They have analyzed their genes. They have measured perceptual skills, I.Q. and memory, and have tried perhaps thousands of drug treatments.
Now, a group of people with the diagnosis is showing researchers a previously hidden dimension of the story: how the disorder can be managed while people build full, successful lives. The continuing study — a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Southern California; and the Department of Veterans Affairs — follows a group of 20 people with the diagnosis, including two doctors, a lawyer and a chief executive, Ms. Myrick.
The study has already forced its authors to discard some of their assumptions about living with schizophrenia. “It’s just embarrassing,” said Dr. Stephen R. Marder, director of the psychosis section at U.C.L.A.’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, a psychiatrist with the V.A. Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and one of the authors of the study. “For years, we as psychiatrists have been telling people with a diagnosis what to expect; we’ve been telling them who they are, how to change their lives — and it was bad information” for many people.
No more so, perhaps, than for Ms. Myrick, who after years of devastating mental trials learned that she needed a high-profile position, not a low-key one, to face down her spells of paranoia and despair.
Read the rest of the story here