Peek Inside Mental Illness in Nic Sheff’s “Schizo”
Nic Sheff’s novel Schizo offers a heartbreaking look at what living with a mental illness is really like. After the disappearance of his younger brother Teddy, Miles feels an enormous sense of guilt. Even though everyone around him insists that his schizophrenia is actually getting worse, Miles insists that it’s getting better, which forces him into the role of an unreliable narrator.
The young teen starts to believe that if he can bring Teddy back, then all the dysfunction in his family will be fixed. So, unable to figure out what’s real and what’s imaginary, he embarks on a quest to find his brother’s kidnapper.
Sheff does an excellent job of allowing the reader to see, hear, and feel what it’s like to live with a mental illness. Miles’ speech is disjointed, which brings his disorder to life without making him out to be a caricature. His schizophrenia is handled with care—although Sheff doesn’t allow you to view the character’s mental illness through rose-colored glasses, he also doesn’t indulge in any negative stereotypes, either.
Even though almost everyone else around him either views Miles with pity or thinks he’s a crazy freak, there’s an element of hope to the story as well. Despite the fact that he has a tenuous grip on reality at times, Miles still has hope, and the message of optimism will also give hope to those struggling with their own mental illness.
Top image by Dejenee Renee.