The Fog of Paranoia: A Sister's Journey through Her Brother's Schizophrenia

Image of The Fog of Paranoia: A Sister's Journey through Her Brother's Schizophrenia
Release Date: 
August 16, 2013
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Reviewed by: 

“. . . a good source for learning about schizophrenia and its effects on family members.”

Solidly written, The Fog of Paranoia is one more book to add to those memoirs that help family members cope with a loved one’s mental illness.

Ms. Sarah Rae lays this book out like most in its class: a brief recanting of childhood memories, sibling dynamics, mild parental discord, and odd family gatherings with her story slowly progressing to turbulent teenage years, the eventual diagnosis of schizophrenia, and then the difficulty of getting her brother Pat the help he so clearly needed.

So much of the book deals with her own difficulties with her family, her dependency on her brother, and her own issues with anxiety and depression that Ms. Rae fails to write with the poignancy needed to truly reveal the essence of Pat and how deeply schizophrenia must have devastated his life.

Ms. Rae’s love for her brother never falters, however, and that alone says something about the kind of man Pat is.

Besides her devotion to her brother, Ms. Rae is also a great proponent of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). When talking about the benefits of NAMI’s 12 week Family to Family Class which is offered free to anyone who has a loved one dealing with a serious mental illness, she says:

“Through NAMI, I came to believe that schizophrenia is not the end of anything. It’s a beast of an illness, but it’s no match for an informed caregiver.”

“I can’t control Pat, but I can always be there to support him. I can meet his fear with empathy. I can make myself a wealth of information about his illness, even if he doesn’t seem to recognize that he has a mental illness. Patience and flexibility replaced the knot in my stomach.”

Although offering nothing particularly new on the subject, Ms. Rae does a nice job blending the “teaching moments” with the personal story of her brother’s illness.
Ms. Rae has become a well-educated advocate for mental illness awareness, and this book is a good source for learning about schizophrenia and its effects on family members.

With regard to her and her family’s advocacy efforts Ms. Rae writes:

“Today, as a family, we own schizophrenia. We bust stigma, avoid falling into stereotypical thinking, and remain hopeful no matter what we see on TV or in the movies.”

These important sentiments would pack more of a punch, however, if Ms. Rae had chosen to write her memoir using her real name:

“I write under a pseudonym, and other names have been changed to protect privacy.”

Someday, perhaps, stigma really will be busted, stereotypical fear associated with serious mental illness won’t exist, privacy won’t be needed to protect the “innocent,” and hope won’t be so necessary, because there will be real support, real treatment, and real recovery.

Books such as The Fog of Paranoia are welcome tools toward these goals.

The Fog of Paranoia is really about a sister’s journey to acceptance—not just of her brother’s illness, but acceptance of herself, of those around her, and of life’s twisted complexities.