My main motive for reading this book was for research but I also thought I could benefit from getting a peek into the mind of someone who suffers from this affliction. It's one thing to talk about the effects and hypothesize about how a person's life could change so dramatically but its something else entirely to hear about the actual experience form someone in their own words.
As someone who has suffered from Tourettes's Sydrome for most of my life, I felt like I could relate at least on some levels. Certainly I knew well the feeling of social stigma. I am intimately familiar with the feeling of not being in control of your body, of needing to perform some random physical act on such a fundamental level that even though you are fully cognitive of the fact that what you are doing makes no sense, you can't calm your obsessive need to do it; to shake your head back and forth, jerk your shoulder to the side or make a noise that no on can understand.
There are other levels and aspects of schizophrenia however, that I could never hope to understand and only serve to trivialize other people's experiences by trying to do so. The Quiet Room is a short book, one that you could probably read in a weekend but the efficiency of the writing is such that it doesn't take very long to really experience the terror of what some people have to live with on a daily basis.
The book is an account of the life of Lori Schiller. It is set during various periods of her life from the onset of her symptoms as a teenager, through adult years dealing with the successes and failures of medication, depression, suicide attempts and drug addiction to her eventual ability to get her disease under control and make her able to work towards helping others who have to deal with this illness. The book consists of essays written by Lori but also by close friends as well as her parents so you get to see the outside perspective as well as Lori's internal thoughts and dialogue. One of the most heart wrenching parts of the book for me, even as a new parent was late in the book, when things for Lori had gotten so bad that her parents both seem to come to an agreement that if medication didn't start having a more dramatic affect on the disease, that their daughter might actually be better off dead.
Lori's own descriptions of the voices in her head were especially disturbing, the experience of constant exterior voices telling her that she was ugly, that she was going to die, that she should kill her doctors before they got the chance to kill her. It was hard to read about her gradual descent into depression and how she grew more and more detached with the world and allowed herself to be used first in her attempt to get more drugs but then probably because she just stopped caring about being alive anymore. So often we take for granted the silence inside our own head, it's frightening to think that our base, unacknowledged emotions could be turned against us and verbalized as hostile forces trying to break us down, to point out our fears and flaws. She describes hearing nothing but gales of laughter directed at her and occasionally talks about visual hallucinations as well. What kind of a life can one lead when you can't even trust your own senses?
In the end, Lori is able to turn things around through the right medication as well as support from excellent doctors and a supportive family, but it does go to highlight the question of what happens to people who don't have access to these things. I would recommend this book if for no other reason, than it is healthy for us as human beings to get a better look at the burdens that other people have to carry around with them. It makes us better people, more appreciative of our gifts in life when we get a peek into the lives of people who are genuinely suffering. It is heartbreaking and emotionally difficult to read but it is also important as a part of being human.
One note I wanted to make is that I listened to this on audiobook and the sound quality is quite bad. It sounds like an old analog recording that was transferred to digital but if you are an audiobook consumer and audio quality is something that is important to you, then you might want to give this book a pass. Seek it out at your library or purchase a physical copy. On the other hand, the book is less than three hours long so you don't have to put up with it for very long.
I came across this audio clip online at some point. It is intended to be an audio approximation of the kind of auditory hallucinations that schizophrenics hear on an ongoing basis.
The clip itself is pretty simple in its construction but if you consider the lifestyle of having something like this playing non-stop, it's pretty disturbing to listen to. Grab some earphones if you have them handy to enhance the experience.