“An Illness, Inherited?”


Novelist Jenni Fagan writes in the New York Times of being gestated in a psychiatric hospital, told she may have inherited schizophrenia, growing up in public care and foster homes, and ultimately deciding that “pleasure is the ultimate rebellion, and so I am taking it, in the small moments, holding my child, feeling ill but still seeing friends for dinner, going to work. I don’t need to understand everything. I just need to offer myself empathy when I feel terror, or the closeness of death, or the sadness of this world, or when I wake in the middle of the night.”

An Illness, Inherited? (New York Times)


  1. This piece is very beautifully written and I identify with this woman and her terrible childhood, for which psychiatrists are responsible. But it saddens me to see that she doesn’t seem to have any consciousness of what psychiatry has done to her. She has spells of depression and other results of how she grew up, but it seems she still takes seriously the useless nonsense that psychiatrists spout to her. Still haven’t read the comments. Perhaps some of them will make sense.

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    • Hi Ted – I really get the impression that she gets it. I also loved The Panopticon, her novel.

      “Recently I had a bout of severe depression… I saw a psychiatrist who informed me that I had obsessive-compulsive disorder. A touch of Asperger’s syndrome that possibly just flared through stress. Severe depression. I was told that my lifelong obsession with existentialism was a result of a brain that has never produced enough serotonin. My amygdala is abnormal. My basal ganglia rebellious. My prefrontal cortex would like a vacation in a more gentle place than this world is ever going to allow.”

      I don’t think she’s taking this seriously. I also think she’s very, very aware of what the system has taken from her, including, to a large extent, her mother, and her identity.

      Hate to put words in another person’s mouth, but that’s the impression I got from the article.

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