By Tiffany Sutton
Key Themes: schizophrenia, teenage experience of moving house, bereavement, break-down, courage
This is a short and to the point book which describes what it is like to live with schizophrenia. Tiffany charts her history from her childhood to the present day explaining how this illness has changed the course of her life. Tiffany likens schizophrenia to cancer – the constant and crippling pain have taken their toll. This is an honest and revealing book.
About the Author
When I was fourteen years old, my family moved to an almost new terraced house in Hertfordshire, about twenty miles north of where we were before in London. I didn’t like the area and felt like a plant that had been uprooted. I went to the local secondary school, but found it hard to make friends. I ended up sobbing on my bed for weeks at the life I had left behind. I felt terrible pain and didn’t really get on with the other school kids. I perceived them as middle-class. Hertfordshire was strange to me. I felt culture shock – green fields everywhere; it was only a small town. We’d had to relocate because of Dad’s job and I had wanted to stay with Nanny in Clapton – Hackney, but Mum had brooked no opposition and had told me: “you’re coming with us”.
There are three life events said to be most likely to lead to a mental breakdown:
4) (Perhaps I can add, from a personal point of view):
Religious mania and too much drinking and partying!
Well, I had suffered a house move at a difficult age. Next thing I knew, my Granddad visited us at Riversmeet and I found out he was suffering with cancer of the pancreas. I was sad and scared, the family sat round the table. Granddad’s face was shiny and clean, and suddenly I started to cry and felt like I was breaking up inside. I think that was the last time I saw him, Aunty Helen nursed him until his death a short while later.
I remember my Granddad for many things: his huge cigars; his dancing; his charisma; his beautiful shiny brown skin; the love I had for him in spite of all he may have done; the way he looked at me in the rear-view mirror of his car for minutes with happy bright eyes, until I jumped and realised I was being observed. I remember our visits to Bolton, where he lived and worked, and where he was accustomed to going to the “Black Man’s Club” to play dominoes. I remember the war-time picture of Granddad in his long coat in the winter snow, on the back he had written: ‘eternally yours’. He flew for the RAF, having seen and responded to a poster in Guyana with the caption “Your Mother Country Needs You!”
A defining memory of mine during this period was watching “The Way We Were” with my Mum one dark evening. The film starred Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand. I felt so distanced from Mum, as if she thought I was all grown-up and didn’t need her anymore. The truth was I needed her more than ever, having been uprooted and finding it difficult to make mends, I felt she was being cool towards me and lacking in understanding. The fact is I was quite lost and Church hadn’t helped.