Author: Joan L. Jackson
Publisher: She Writes Press
Schizophrenia is a serious disorder of the mind and brain wherein it is estimated that worldwide about 1 percent of the population is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and approximately 2.2. million in the USA are afflicted with this disorder. Fortunately with the advent of new treatments, it is treatable, although it may not be cured.
What is it like to have a family member suffer from schizophrenia? What is it like to live a life suffering from schizophrenia? These are the two principal themes running through Joan L. Jackson's novel, Just in Time where she weaves an affecting story of a forty-eight year old man, Steve, who was a track star and who suffers from schizophrenia.
Steve's two siblings, Sylvia and Scott are very much involved in looking out for him after their parents died and as we discover, this turns out to be an incredible challenge considering that schizophrenia changes the way a person thinks, feels, and generally perceives the world. They often become confused, disoriented, reclusive, and delusional with too much stimulation or change.
When the narrative begins, we learn that Steve's parents have recently passed on and he will now be living alone in the family home-something his brother and sister are not too keen on. Consequently, they decide to engage Sylvia's sister-in-law, Nancy, who had she just learned that she had to move out of her friend's guest house. Nancy's life was not exactly a bowl of cherries considering that she is a divorcee, penniless, and barely eking out a living with her employment at a grocery store. Consequently, for all concerned it is a win-win situation. Nancy would enjoy free room and board while acting as a companion for Steve, a watchdog concerning the taking of his medication, making sure he shows up for his doctor's appointments and in general living as much as possible a healthy lifestyle.
In a forcefully written novel Jackson brings the story to believable life through carefully wrought, affecting characterizations of Sylvia, Scott, and Nancy and their experiences, challenges and emotional pain resulting from their personal associations with Steve. Nonetheless, they all somehow manage to get on with the everyday business of living with all of its ups and downs.
Alongside dealing with Steve, we also learn of Nancy's and Sylvia's demanding problems with their own sons that entail the creative juggling of their own lives. Sylvia's twenty-two year old son is a drug addict while Nancy's unemployed thirty-two year old son was thrown out of his home by his wife.
In fewer than two hundred and fifteen pages Just in Time presents to its readers an extraordinary and thoughtful look at experiencing schizophrenia from the inside and its impact on family members and caretakers. In addition, Jackson has made it her business to combat the poor understanding attached to schizophrenia which in the media reporting and in public opinion probably has more negative associations than any other public health issue. Very often these sufferers are depicted as being dangerous, weak and unsuitable of being an individual or having human characteristics and feelings.
As Jackson mentions in the novel, “Schizophrenia-derived from the Greek schizein, to split, and phren, mind-had become misleadingly popularized as “split personality,” usually imagined as a version of a horrifying Jekyll and Hyde. However, there is no category or phenomenon in psychiatry called split personality, but try telling that to your next-door neighbor.” Generally, the mentally ill are still perceived with a great deal of fear and suspicion, goods that have been messed up or objects of pity.
After reading this powerful personal human narrative, I doubt if you will come away without being blown away by empathy and the feeling of compassion for Steve, his siblings and Nancy as well as a better understanding of those who battle mental illness.