White Schitzophrenia

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Inspired by a true story, White Schizophrenia is a light-hearted account about the delightful sides of mental illness. A mother and a daughters relationship is affected by an illness which takes over the mother's thinking, emotions, and behaviour. However, Lily is able to use her instability to create wonderful pieces of artwork, leaving the reader questioning: Is mental illness a good thing?

By Rhiannon Bell


I grew up in Alfred Cove watching my mother suffering from debilitating schizophrenia. Mostly it was tragic and disturbing, though at times I found it almost marvellous. Even the maddest of worlds has its’ own sense of logic.  You see, most people have this common instinctive fear of the unknown. A fear so great, they refuse to see the good. The line between creative genius and self-destruction is whisper thin. My mother alone proved that to me.
When I was little, she decorated me the most beautiful children’s room. It was indescribable, indefinitely inviting. It was a real life doll house. Despite her unstable, wrangled and often even fragile mind she was an utterly creative genius. She painted my walls with the most marvellous mystical creatures, so delightful that other children would have been envious. I would compare her to Da Vinci, possibly even Picasso, and I dreamed that one day, she would get there.
In many ways we were alike. Both curious and carefree, we shared the same child-like sense of humour and used to scrutinize every detail. I’d analyse everything; scratches on window panes, the texture of water, the smell of oranges, the taste of pineapple, even the feeling of sand slipping between my fingertips. 
Naturally, I became inquisitive about my father, or a mere lack of one. I asked my mother what had happened to him, and she answered me abruptly, explaining that his presence still remained. She mentioned hearing his voice around sometimes. I liked that and anticipated the day I’d get to as well.  That day never came.
Throughout my childhood, I was on the move. My mother constantly searched for new inspiration; something that took years to get used to but eventually became an object of my own desire. 
My mother liked to paint.  Her paintings seemed to hold her unstable emotions; like an hour glass, her paintings gave her more time. Her success was a personal process and she eventually became well- known for her unique and disparate artwork.
I took up painting, but my drawings were never as good as hers. She could draw buildings and skyscrapers with such ease that it seemed to take a mere flick of a wrist. My mother was able to draw so intricately, she could create a city full of light and love and power, a city bursting with life, all but with one single paint brush. I longed to be like her.
Eventually, she began to deteriorate. But as her deterioration advanced, as did her striking abilities to create unique and marvellous things. It was a struggle I fought eternally with; the difficulty of knowing if a change within her should be sparked by something curative or if her deterioration could bring about something remarkable to the human eye. I was uncertain. I didn’t know how to go about the situation.  My thoughts in disarray, I chose to take no measure to alter her decline. Perhaps I was too young, certainly curious.
I was asleep one night when I was startled awake to the sound of sudden screams. Not a scream of intense pain or grief, but one of joyful excitement; like the ring of a child’s laughter when pushed on a swing. 
I reached for my nightgown by my intricate white bed stand, its corners engraved with my mother’s initials. I reached for the light switch and turned it on; the light was so bright that it burned to me as brightly as the sun. The fading paintings on my wall glistened mysteriously and the moon beckoned at me through my window. Following the sounds, I raced down the stairs, over my polished white tiled floors and found her speedily in the back garden. 
There she stood in the shimmering moonlit garden, with a look of unbelievable excitement etched on her face. She was reaching up to the clouds in the sky, dancing and grabbing at the empty air. Claiming she saw creatures like the ones she painted, I barely noticed her near naked body. There was nothing there to be seen. At first I tried to help her, but as I neared closer to her, she screamed intensely. I was frightened and I couldn’t comprehend how this could happen so suddenly. Having no alternative, I reached in my pocket and dialled Grandmas number. 
From that night on, my mother was never quite right. Eventually she became so troubled that she had to be locked up. I visited her many times in the first year, but she would barely speak to me. Her room was bleak and devoid of colour. At night I would toss and turn; my mind hopelessly replaying every strange thing I’d ever witnessed her do. 
By then, I’d lost the will to paint. As I walked through the hallways of the institution, screams of delightment and pain would fill my ears acting as obscure reminders of the dreaded night I lost my best friend. An incessant pang of emptiness filled me as my world was turned upside down. 
I decided to visit her one day and brought with me an easel so she could paint, I knew that was what she needed to revive and sustain herself just that little bit longer. 
After I moved out of home, and to the bustling city, ironically I felt, as if the whole world was barren. One dull Saturday morning, as I sat on a train, watching someone talk to themselves, this ever-present urge began to crawl its way deeper into the crevice of my jumbled mind. I was infatuated to the very point of distraction. As I reluctantly left my seat, and impulsively strode to my apartment from the train station, ideas began to fill my head. Even the persistent noise of congestion; which drifted past me in a hostile manner and the swift movement of busy feet couldn’t lift my mind from the place it clung to.
As extensive research began to fill my days, I never lost sight of my purpose. My desire so immovable, that I began to avoid everything else in life. Over the next two years, my progress began to inch closer and closer to the truth. My dis-satisfaction with life grew, but giving up was not an option. When I was 25, a cure was inevitable. After years of effort; trying with all my heart to make my dream my reality, it came true. 
I’m sitting in the hospital wing; my mother is in ward C, just down the hall. Even though she sits there with a new insight to the world, the person I once knew isn’t quite the same. Something is lost in her; her ability to paint.  

Submitted: July 20, 2012

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Add Your Comments:



Very intriguing piece. I love the way you captured the beauty in such an illness. Very inspiring.

Fri, July 20th, 2012 4:57pm


Thank you very much @Darkdreamer.
I want people to learn to celebrate the differences in people.

Sat, July 21st, 2012 4:12am

Jeff Bezaire

Great story. It starts off so cheery and hopeful, but there is always the lingering dread that the mother is going to be lost to her illness. It's nice to see the brighter side to mental illness, because there can be a bright side; it's not always a completely horrible thing. The story transitions real well from a happy tale to an increasingly sad one. I like the symbolic, as well as literal meaning behind the desire to paint. That last line is particularly sad. For all of us writers, painters or anyone with a creative talent, we know what that truly means, and we dread ever losing our precious gifts as well. You capture the struggle of the daughter real well, trying to help her mother, worrying about her while struggling to keep her life together, losing her desire to paint, searching for an answer to her mother's ailment. This is an all around incredible story. The depth you've put into the characters and events has created an affecting and compelling piece.

Sun, September 6th, 2015 3:43pm


Thank you so much for taking the time to read my piece and really understand the characters. I put a fair bit of work into this, so it's nice to see you enjoyed my writing and were able to empathise with the characters. It might be worse to lose a talent than to have an ailment in the end, because something like painting or writing can be the only thing that allows someone to express the deepest parts of who they are. Sometimes a mental illness is exactly what enables this kind of talent that is so celebrated. We often forget that many artists simply go crazy if they can't express themselves, and sometimes painting can be more expressive than speaking. That was the main point I was trying to capture.

Sun, September 6th, 2015 2:02pm

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