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Hardcover Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia Book

ISBN: 0312320647

ISBN13: 9780312320645

Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

Growing up in the fifties, Carolyn Spiro was always in the shadow of her more intellectually dominant and social outgoing twin, Pamela. But as the twins approached adolescence, Pamela began to succumb... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Fascinating tale of twins and mental illness

Because I have an identical twin sister, I was drawn to this book because of its reflection of the unique and special relationship that twins share, one that can span the spectrum from flashes of guilt and envy to moments of deep devotion and pride. The alternating voices of Carolyn and Pamela reflect this as they impart their struggle to become individuals and be seen as unique from each other as they develop through adolescence while also staying true to the innate devotion twins share. This is all turned on its head when Pamela, the smart, outgoing achiever, begins to hear voices.... Carolyn struggles with her will to be successful in her own right while feeling guilty that she is somehow betraying her sister. Pamela, battling the demons that keep getting louder, tries desperately to hang on to the achievement that once came so easily but finds it increasingly difficult as she succumbs to the nightmare of her disease. Their relationship as twins changes as they evolve into young women and this role-reversal occurs. The twin bond is extraordinary and I believe that that bond, shared mentally and relationally, often overshadows relationships with other people, even other family members. The exclusivity of this deep bond is illustrated in the twins' siblings' and parents' isolation and denial throughout this ordeal. It is as if Pamela and Carolyn are an entity apart from others. Carolyn's relationship with her own husband and children even takes second priority when Pamela is in crisis. Pamela's first-person account of the manifestations of her illness, the roller-coaster uncertainty of treatments, and the struggles with side effects and compliance issues is heartbreaking, but makes for a fascinating, page-turning read, while the issues that Carolyn is conflicted with are at times shocking but thought-provoking. (This reader was forced to examine the "what ifs?") At times she uses avoidance to cope and seems neglectful and uncaring, but paradoxically, she, true to her 'twin-dom', is also the steady rescuer who comes when Pamela is on the edge of madness. It is an eye-opener not only to the issues of mental illness and the stigma surrounding it, but also to the challenges these diseases present for the families of those affected. I recommend this book because it not only illuminates the world of schizophrenia and mental illness and the real issues regarding mental health and the attitudes these issues invoke, but it is a fascinating account of a relationship with its many facets and many seasons that culminates in a picture of acceptance, love and devotion.

NAMI recommends

August 23, 2005 The Nation's Voice on Mental Illness Traditionally, twin studies have been important statistically for understanding genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, but a new book, authored by twins, provides a unique exposition of the illness. Divided Minds: Twins Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia is a memoir by Pamela Spiro Wagner, now in her 50s, who began hearing voices in 6th grade. Her chapters alternate with ones by her sister, Carolyn Spiro, M.D., a psychiatrist, who even with her medical training, did not recognize her sister's illness for years. Neither did their father, a professor at Yale Medical School. They also are scheduled to speak at NAMI state conferences in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania in October, as well as to NAMI Westchester County, N.Y. This is not the first time Pamela has shared her perspective as a person living with mental illness. As part of Mental Illness Awareness Week in 1993, NAMI Connecticut and others honored her with a media award for an article she published in the local newspaper, entitled "Mentally Ill People Deserve Equal Health Insurance Coverage." It also was carried on the newspaper's national wire service. "NAMI is probably the most active and helpful group around and the award I won...remains one of my proudest moments," Pamela says. "I had barely heard of NAMI before that time, but I knew then I'd have to find out more. What I learned was that NAMI has single-handedly worked to curb stigma and fear of psychiatric patients, and to treat families and friends as allies in the struggle." "A few decades ago biological brain diseases like depression, bipolar disorder, OCD and schizophrenia were still taboo subjects," Carolyn adds. "NAMI has helped bring them into household conversation. The Alliance has done extraordinary work in combating stigma and prejudice by educating the public about these illnesses." Today, Pamela is an accomplished writer and poet. She was the winner of the 2002 BBC International Poetry Award, and her work has appeared in the Midwest Poetry Review, Tikkun and the Trinity Review. Although hospitalized several times for what was diagnosed as depression, Pamela graduated magna cum laude from Brown University in 1975. She made it through two years of medical school -- her rivalry with Carolyn playing out even as her life came apart. They walked different paths, but remained intertwined. In the 1980s, one psychiatrist finally gets the diagnosis right -- telling Pamela that her struggle is with schizophrenia. For the first time, she is able to "tell another person everything: about the voices and the Strangeness, about my experience of the other dimensions and alternate reality." "I know I'm evil," Pamela told the doctor. "I'm Hitler's spawn, that's what the voices say. I think I may have killed JFK. I know that Gray Crinkled Paper is the secret to the universe and I know no one understands." "Pammy psychotic?" Carolyn recalls reacting. "Oh,

Amazing, page turner

This book was fascinating. This illness has always interested me- to know learn about it. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in psychology, schizophrenia, of course, and/or twins. It was a page turner! BTW, here is Pam's blog if anyone who has read it wants updates. She seems to post pretty regularly.

Beautiful, Brilliant, Fascinating, Sad, and Tragic

A story of life inside a mind that is a living hell. Pamela Spiro Wagner probably has a genius IQ; two-time first-prize winner of the 'Tunxis Poetry Review,' winner of the 2002 BBC International Poetry Award, her work appearing in one magazine and newspaper after another. Pamela also has schizophrenia, and at a very bad level. In this book she is able to describe more clearly, more rationally than I've ever seen what it's like to life in her head. She is able to use her tremendous communications skills to describe what happens inside her head during psychotic episodes better than I've ever seen it described. Carolyn, her twin sister has no such mental illness. She says she isn't as smart as Pamela, but with a M.D. from Harvard she can't be all that dumb. She is able to present a calm and rational side to the story that likewise is so often lacking in straight tales of mental illness. The book is written in two voices, one by each of the two sisters. It's a concept for a book that works exceedingly well in this case. Highly recommended.

Read it slowly

It's a facinating story, but it is slow and needs to be read slowly (twice).
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