USC professor on being both successful and schizophrenic

elyn-saks-usc.jpgUSC law professor Elyn R. Saks, author of the memoir, “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness,” writes in Sunday's New York Times from her perspective that "the seeds of creative thinking may sometimes be found in mental illness." Her experience as a sufferer of schizophrenia is that while she needs medication and professional care, she and others like her need to work. "My mind, I have come to say, is both my worst enemy and my best friend."


Thirty years ago, I was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. My prognosis was “grave”: I would never live independently, hold a job, find a loving partner, get married. My home would be a board-and-care facility, my days spent watching TV in a day room with other people debilitated by mental illness. I would work at menial jobs when my symptoms were quiet. Following my last psychiatric hospitalization at the age of 28, I was encouraged by a doctor to work as a cashier making change. If I could handle that, I was told, we would reassess my ability to hold a more demanding position, perhaps even something full-time.

Then I made a decision. I would write the narrative of my life. Today I am a chaired professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. I have an adjunct appointment in the department of psychiatry at the medical school of the University of California, San Diego, and am on the faculty of the New Center for Psychoanalysis. The MacArthur Foundation gave me a genius grant.

Although I fought my diagnosis for many years, I came to accept that I have schizophrenia and will be in treatment the rest of my life. Indeed, excellent psychoanalytic treatment and medication have been critical to my success. What I refused to accept was my prognosis.

Saks photo: USC

More by Kevin Roderick:
Monday campaign wrap-up: Foxes, thrilling action and more
Editor reevaluates downtown after getting mugged
USC professor on being both successful and schizophrenic
'Argo' and Jennifer Lawrence closing in on the prize
Fake books for the movie industry
Recent Think piece stories on LA Observed:
USC professor on being both successful and schizophrenic
On Aaron Sorkin, television and repeating oneself
Watergate, reconsidered
The power of firsthand narrative: Outsourcing the NHL finals
Todd Gitlin on James Q. Wilson and broken windows

New at LA Observed
Follow us on Twitter

On the Media Page
Go to Media
On the Politics Page
Go to Politics

LA Biz Observed
Arts and culture

Sign up for daily email from LA Observed

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

LA Observed on Twitter and Facebook