Schizophrenia has long been a devastating mental illness and only recently have we begun to see an improvement in our capabilities to treat this disorder. The development of neuroleptic's such as, H aldol, Risperdal, and Zyprexa have given psychiatrists, psychologists and their patients great hope in the battle against this mental disease. However, during the 1960 s, drugs were not available and psychologists relied upon psychotherapy in order to treat patients. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, is a description of a sixteen-year-old girl's battle with schizophrenia, in the 1960 s. Deborah Blau's illness spanned three years, in which she spent her life in a mental institution. The book itself is a semi-autobiographical account of Joanne Greenberg's experiences in a mental hospital during her own bout with schizophrenia.
She presents her experiences by relating them to Deborah. The novel was written to help fight the stigmatisms and prejudices held against mental illness. In the late 1960 s, reactions to mental illness generally fell between two polarized attitudes. One, popular with the counterculture generation, romanticized mental illness as an altered state of consciousness that was rich in artistic, creative inspiration. The protagonist of this myth was the tortured artist who poured out his or her soul in writing or art between periods of mental breakdown; Sylvia Plath, Vincent Van Gogh, and Virginia Woolf are only a few such individuals whose artistry is practically inseparable from the idealized myths of their mental instability. Often their periods of mental breakdown were a source of inspiration, but before one romanticizes their mental illnesses, it necessary to remember that all three committed suicide.
On the other end of the spectrum, mental illness was stigmatized as a weakness or fatal flaw on the part of the sufferer. Even today, many uninformed people regard mental illness as a stigmatized condition, shrouded in shameful secrecy and negative stereotypes, to be described with frightening or belittling euphemisms. In the late 1960 s, when Greenberg's novel was published, mental illness was even more misunderstood and feared. The reading public had absorbed centuries of inaccurate information about mental illness, all based on prejudice, ignorance, and fear. Because of her experiences as a Jewish-American and having fought her own battle with schizophrenia, Greenberg wrote I Never Promised You a Rose Garden to help people understand what it is like have to face so much hardship.
Throughout her life, she has fought for the respect and empathy that individuals suffering from both physical and mental handicaps have been denied. Deborah Blau allowed Greenberg the opportunity to call attention to the misconceptions of mental illness and at the same time describe the story of a very bright and artistically talented girl who just happened to be struggling with a mental disorder. When Deborah was five, she had an operation to remove a tumor in her ovaries that caused her to be incontinent. This was a very traumatic experience because a great deal of physical pain and shame came along with the problems caused by the tumor and resulting surgery. Deborah suffered frequent abuse from her anti-Semitic peers and neighbors during her childhood. As a result of continued pain, both physical and mental, Deborah creates an imaginary world, which she calls the Kingdom of Yr, to use as a defense against the confusing and frightening truths of the real world.
Anterrabae, or the Falling God is the most powerful being in the Kingdom of Yr. The second most powerful being is Lactam aeon. Another being of Yr is I dat, the Dissmebler. She is a beautiful goddess who watches over Deborah.
In the midst of the story, Deborah accidentally leaves a clue in the real world to the existence of Yr. In order to keep this from happening again, she creates The Censor to guard Yr's secrets from earth. When Deborah first creates Yr, it is a sort of haven, but as time goes on, the gods of Yr become Deborah's masters and control her every word and action. For instance, The Censor becomes a tyrant who watches and controls all of Deborah's actions.
In addition, The Collect is a chorus of voices that constantly criticize Deborah in Yr. They are representative of all the teachers, peers, and neighbors who abused and insulted Deborah throughout her childhood and adolescence. Unfortunately, her escape becomes her confinement. During Deborah's three years in the hospital, the reader is provided with a glimpse of mental illness from the patient's point of view. Deborah's parents, Esther and Jacob, show the struggle that family members face.
This is a conflict between their love for their daughter and their shame of her illness. They blame themselves for what their daughter is facing and they fear what they must do to help her. In spite of this, they manage to gather the courage to get Deborah treatment, and allow it to continue, even though the therapy seems to have no effect for quite some time. They obtain assistance from a brilliant psychiatrist, who is not only strong-willed, but also empathetic towards their situations. Deborah's therapist, Dr. Clara Fried, gradually gains Deborah's trust, because she never forces Deborah to accept her point of view.
While she helps Deborah, the doctor, in turn, comforts Deborah's parents. During the course of the three years, Deborah gains the courage to fight her illness, only with Dr. Fried's expertise. Fried's goal is to allow Deborah to have the opportunity to choose between having a life in the reality of Earth, even though it does have many faults and problems, and living in the phantoms of Yr. While she is in the process of fighting her illness, Deborah builds friendships with the other patients in the hospital even though they have a sort of fear of emotional attachment to other people. Even though she still has fears of the Earth's reality, Deborah goes on to earn a GED degree, and, eventually, wins her struggle against the illness.
The doctor's most important tool is empathy, as Clara Fried demonstrates. Treating the mentally ill requires a combination of emotional sensitivity, strength, and intuition in addition to good clinical training. The relationship between the patient and doctor is a key part of treating mental illness, but a good relationship depends on illusory qualities than cannot be defined or acquired in advance. Dr.
Fried acknowledges the value of Deborah's imaginary kingdom as a kind of map to Deborah's illness. Over the course of three years, she guides Deborah through a re-interpretation of Yr and its logic. In this way, she helps Deborah cope with the often confusing, often irrational laws of the real world. When Dr.
Robson takes over Deborah's case, his approach is to prove to Deborah that Yr is her own creation. His approach does not work with Deborah, although it might with a different patient. Because this novel was written in the 1960 s it contains some misconceptions about schizophrenia. The way that Deborah is treated in the novel is different from how she would be treated today. Based on what was known in the 1960's, Joanne Greenberg uses the method of therapy as the majority of treatment. Today, schizophrenia is treated mostly with psychiatric drugs.
In recent years, schizophrenia has come to be regarded as a problem in brain development, a physiological condition. Although no one knows exactly what 'causes' it, studies indicate that a complex combination of genetics and environmental factors contribute to the development of the condition. The novel implies that Deborah's treatment is composed mostly of therapy. It is unlikely that therapy without the use of psychiatric drugs is sufficient to treat schizophrenia. Still, these new findings certainly do not invalidate the importance of empathy and understanding in the treatment of schizophrenia. Greenberg's desire to garner sympathy, respect, and understanding for sufferers of mental illness is still a valid concern, and her novel remains valuable as a sympathetic portrayal of mental illness.
Although this novel uses outdated treatment methods, it does succeed in allowing the reader to see into the mind of a mentally ill person. Greenberg portrays the problem of mental illness from different perspectives. She details Jacob and Esther Blau's struggle with self-doubt, blame, and the stigma of their daughter's sickness. The novel also portrays the difficult, stressful work required of the medical professionals and the staff who work with mentally ill patients. However, most importantly, Greenberg portrays the experience of mental illness from the patient's point of view.
Struggling with mental illness is not glamorous or easy. The road to recovery is lined with setbacks, doubt, and fear. It takes a great deal of courage and perseverance on Deborah's part to face her illness and fight it through treatment.