23 Aug 2022


The Center Cannot Hold

Format: APA

Academic level: University

Paper type: Book Report

Words: 594

Pages: 2

Downloads: 0

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey through Madness is a book written by Elyn R. Saks about her experience with Schizophrenia. She gives a vivid explanation, battle with mental illness and her emergence as a victor. She is currently the Professor of Law and Psychiatry at one of the prestigious universities, University of Southern California. The author narrates the struggles people with mental illness go through especially women (Saks, 2008). I believe Elyn wrote the book as a sign of hope for people living with mental illness. This paper will give a brief review of the book. 

At the age of 8, that was 1960, a period when an individual is expected to lead an ideal childhood life, Elyn started experiencing signs of excess obsession and nightmares. These symptoms were considered usual for a child and especially when they were happening at night. She led her childhood life with the symptoms which later on escalated while she was at the University, Oxford University. She started hearing voices in her head and fantasizing about committing suicide. With these signs, Saks was admitted into a psychiatric hospital. The experience did not stop there, she later joined Yale law school (Saks, 2008) and in the first term, she found herself on the roof of the library at midnight singing. She admitted again into a psychiatric ward her she spent five months. Saks was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hence began her battle with mental illness. 

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Saks was put on antipsychotic drugs to help balance the high and low episodes she was experiencing. Despite having some positive effects on her, the drugs had their side effects that Saks believed might bring some permanent effects on her. Some of the effects were quick blinking of the eyes, smacking the lips, inability to reproduce and gaining weight. The list was endless, and Saks was not sure of what to do, but the doctors assured her that the drugs were safe for her despite the effects she dreaded. At times, she would refuse to take the drugs in fear of the side effects and the consequences were worse. She got back to the noises and trauma. She then understood that it was up to her to follow the medication regimen strictly and hence manage the symptoms that were frequently presenting. 

Stigma was part of Sak’s life. She faced personal and public stigma. The illness was a great determinant in her choice of career. She first worked for a charity organization advocating for the rights of people living with mental illnesses. She knew it was up to her to stand up for her rights. I believe she had a fear of other people not doing it for her and the like and hence needed to come out and do it. On the other hand, through her job hunt, Elyn required saving the better part of her story to secure a job. An employer would not be comfortable employing an individual with mental illness. A condition that posed a threat to the person and the organization. Nevertheless, Sak went beyond the stigma and developed her career as a professor of law and psychiatry. 

Treatment of mental illness requires the cooperation of the family members and the health institutions. The procedures need money, and hence a family that economically enabled can take their patient through all the necessary steps. I believe Sak’s condition was dealt with at an earlier stage and she received excellent support from the family and the health institutions thus helping her battle schizophrenia. Treatment of mental illness is influenced by several factors and support from the family plays a critical role in ensuring a patient leads a normal life (Pratt & Barrett, 2014). Elyn Saks fought the battle and she a sign of hope to all those people with mental illness. People with mental illness can make it in life just like any other average person. 


Pratt, W. C., Gill, J. K., Barrett, N. M. & Roberts, M.M. (2014). Psychiatric Rehabilitation. 3 rd Edition 

Saks, E. R. (2008). The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness. Hatchette Books. 1-340 

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