Thursday, February 09, 2012

People Say I'm Crazy (documentary)

I just finished viewing the film, People Say I'm Crazy, by director John Cadigan, who lives with Schizophrenia. It is a documentary about the illness, and I must say it is poignant and insightful. Perhaps, if I had seen this film a few years ago, it would have been even more helpful than it is now that I'm more recovered than I was then. I never knew about the film until a week ago, though, so I bought the DVD from the website where it so for sale for $35 plus shipping. I bought it because there's nowhere that you can probably rent it from and I really wanted to see this film, as it was being called the only documentary about Schizophrenia by a person who has the illness.

Cadigan was at once honest and shy, forthcoming and hesitant, pained and funny, paranoid and very well aware of his paranoia with great insight. The film depicts his journey leaving college after his first psychotic break to ending up getting electroshock treatments, to becoming catatonic, and then getting on Clozaril and recovering remarkably from his previous state (albeit also with gaining 100 pounds exactly like I did from my medication). He is an artist, and a very talented, productive one, but in the film he is unable to hold a regular job, although one could say creating a documentary is probably a lot of work. He showed his art at the Capitol Building Rotunda in Washington at an art show of artists who have mental illnesses, and that was one of the highlights of the film for me. The film also shows how he tries to maintain friendships with other people pained by mental illnesses, and how he tries to find affordable, decent housing.

I have to say I highly recommend this film, because if you do not understand Schizophrenia now, you will come away with a better understanding of it from watching this, and if you do understand now, you will come away from this knowing for sure that you are not alone in your illness. This statement also pertains to other mental illnesses like Schizoaffective, of course, and Bipolar Disorder.  It is as good a film as Out of the Shadow, another documentary I bought a few years ago about a woman with Schizophrenia, made by her daughter.

I wish that people I know at work, or in my family would watch this movie sometime, and understand this illness. I wish these movies, both of them, were shown on PBS or NBC or ABC or CBS. Perhaps something similar has been shown before, but I haven't seen it. Thanks to the internet, I got to see these by purchasing them online. You might want to check your local library to see if they are stocked there before making this purchase.

One of the things I have wanted to do for a long time is write a book about my illness and how it started, and how it was to be floridly psychotic, and how I recovered from that state. I do not know if I'll ever do that. I want to do it, but for one thing, I waited too long to get most of my medical records from my hospital stays and they would likely not exist by now. So a large part of the record I would be needing to use is gone. I also lost all of my journals when I threw them into a dumpster years ago, thinking the Illuminati would be using them against me in a concentration camp. So I don't have those either. I might still work on a book, but the idea of getting one published is pretty difficult to conquer. I'm not sure I could do that. But we shall see. In the mean time, there are other books, some of which I recommend on the Frequently Asked Questions page at the top of this blog and there are films like these two, People Say I'm Crazy, and Out of the Shadow.

One of the hardest things about illnesses like Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder is that, when you're in the thick of it, you can't really describe it to people. You become too sick to even know you're sick. And you don't know you need help, or if you do, you don't know how to explain what kind of help you need or where to find it. They're very isolating illnesses, and a lot of people lose their lives to that fact. I hope that this blog, in some small way, sheds light on these illnesses, and that it helps explain what I've been through so that people who have been through similar things can know they're not alone, and so that people who have never experienced it can come to understand at least a little bit. I hope it has accomplished that much.

In the beginning of the film, Cadigan talks about symptoms, and they are so similar to symptoms I experienced, thinking that people were saying things they were not really saying, making threats to me with their hand gestures, and seeing things differently. He forgets to bathe and wash his hair; he gets depressed. He feels separate from the world, and he feels that people are out to get him almost all the time. I lived like that a lot. So it is important to me to try to help explain it, as he did with this film.


  1. Jen,

    I don't know how long ago you are talking about for the records, but I recently requested and received records from 2000 when I was hospitalized for bipolar. It was something of a struggle to get my psychiatrist's records - he didn't want to give them to me and I can see why because I was acting like an idiot and I really didn't like him (and the feeling was mutual - he obviously didn't like me either).

    You can write a letter to where ever you had treatment asking if they have your records in storage and if they would copy them and send them to you. Offer to pay for copy and postage charges. You might be surprise at what they keep in storage.

    I also tossed a few journals because I was afraid if something happened to me, my husband would find them and see the awful things I was writing down. I still have one and am debating whether it should go as well. I would also like to write a book about my bipolar, but I worry about how it would affect my family if I do. I did things I am very, very ashamed of still.

    Wish they would put out more movies like this on cable. It would be really nice if we didn't have to pay to see these things, wouldn't it?


  2. I hope it doesn't sound too negative when I say understanding is often mostly an illusion. The first therapist I'd had didn't understand about Schizophrenia at all..he was a depressive, recovering alcoholic & tried to relate almost everything that was happening to me to himself..AND, told me things like :"People need people" & "That is not what you are supposed to be learning here!" when I said I could not trust people.

    A schizophrenic man I've met in my area says he bought all manner of books & videos for his parents, & had them attend therapy sessions with him & 2 years out his (college educated, teacher) mother said : But don't you realize what this is doing to your whole family? Can't you try to eliminate these episodes?

  3. Hi Jen,

    I almost bought the documentary you bought, but I'm a little tight on money right now so I decided to wait. I also have the film "Out of the Shadows". It sounds as if John Cadigan is still in the thick of the illness. I wish there could be a documentary on someone who is in a firm recovery, like you. I'm still blown away by you and my online friends who suffer from mental illness because you are all so bright and talented and strong. This picture I have of all of you is not the picture that is generally associated in the public with people who have schizophrenia related illnesses. I also commend Mr. Cadigan for visually and verbally telling his story because he's helping to change the face of mental illness.

    Jen, I really do hope that you get serious about writing a book about your experiences. And you don't need your medical records or your journals to do that, though I'm sure that might be interesting and informative. All you need is you, your mind and spirit, and your decided ability to write. You could also use this blog to inspire you. Remember that a memoir is not about all of your experience but only about a meaningful section of it, various turning points. This blog illustrates you going from serious illness and into recovery and that sounds like the kind of story you are looking to tell.

    Love, Kate : )

  4. Hi Jen,

    I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for a "Liebster Award." Which means you get to put that on your sidebar. It's an award given by other bloggers to people who haven't reached a following of 200 yet to increase readership and congratulate them on being so awesome.

    Your blog is such a great contribution to the mental health community. Hope you're doing okay.


  5. Hi,

    I'm studying Communication Design and I'd like to write a Graphic Novel about the experience of Schizophrenia as part of the course.

    I studied Biomedical Science before and my dissertation was about schizophrenia susceptibility genes. I felt quite uncomfortable approaching this highly emotive subject in such a rational and clinical way, and without the consideration of the subjective experience or the social factors that affect it.

    I'd really like to bridge some of the gaps between the scientific explanations, the subjective and emotional experiences and the economic, social political and perhaps even anthropological dimensions of the disease.

    I was wondering if it would be possible to interview you over email?

    My website is and my email is

    Please get in touch!


  6. Hi, I found your site through Chelle's blog.I admire that you speak up for all of us who suffer from mental illness.
    I don't have Schizoaffective Disorder but I do suffer from severe depression with psychotic episodes, as well as OCD and anxiety. I have been admitted to a mental hospital twice and during one time had 6 weeks of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) treatment. I am currently taking 2 different anti-depressants and an anti-psychotic and am currently doing pretty well.
    I have to admit that I'm hesitant to let people know that I suffer from these problems, but I do feel that I have gone through this pain in order to understand and help other sufferers.
    I look forward to reading your blog.


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