My father and I are both introverts. We have blue eyes and the terrible habit of smirking when other people say stupid things. We were both chain smokers well into our 30s, both managed to quit.
My father lives far away from me in a city in Southern Thailand that’s famous for its Dim Sum, but he prefers to eat at Dairy Queen.
He reads William Carlos Williams, likes to scuba dive.
When he was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young adult, doctors blamed my grandmother for bad parenting.
The myth of the “schizophrenogenic mother”—a mom who is at once cold and anxious—got its start in the 1930s when researchers observed a few cases of maternal rejection and more cases of overprotection among mothers whose kids struggled with schizophrenia. The theory that mothering styles can cause schizophrenia has long-since been debunked, but if my kids ever develop symptoms, there’s no denying it will be my genes they got it from.
Schizophrenia affects one percent of the general population worldwide—making it twice as common as Alzheimer’s and three times as common as insulin-dependent diabetes. But in my family, we’ve got a 10 percent chance of experiencing the world in this taboo way.
Do you think you have special talents or supernatural gifts?
Not at all
Just a little
Quite a lot
All the time
When I was growing up, my father made stream-of-consciousness experimental animations in my grandparents’ basement apartment and wandered the streets of the Monterey Peninsula wearing a Louis the XIV wig and playing his trumpet.
He never got much treatment that I know of. When I asked him about it once, he said his doctor told him, “That one’s incurable. You’re just cuckoo.” He shrugged and didn’t say anything else for the rest of the night.
We watched strangers sing Karaoke.