Michael Schofield’s daughter January is at the mercy of her imaginary friends, except they aren’t the imaginary friends that most young children have; they are hallucinations. And January is caught in the conflict between our world and their world, a place she calls Calalini. Some of these hallucinations, like “24 Hours,” are friendly and some, like “400 the Cat” and “Wednesday the Rat,” bite and scratch her until she does what they want. They often tell her to scream at strangers, jump out of buildings, and attack her baby brother.
At six years old, January Schofield, “Janni,” to her family, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, one of the worst mental illnesses known to man. What’s more, schizophrenia is 20 to 30 times more severe in children than in adults and in January’s case, doctors say, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her.
I received a copy of January First through my membership in www.fromlefttowrite.com. This is a response to the book not a review.
As Good As It Gets, a 1997 movie with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, tells the story of two imperfect people who find the humanity in each other. Jack plays a jerk with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He eats lunch every day at a restaurant where he demands that Helen be his waitress as he maintains the excessive rituals that assuage his OCD. His relentless need for her presence in his life leads him to help her critically ill son, and they form a quirky but caring relationship in the process. Toward the end of the film, he tries to visit her apartment but finds the disorder there more than his illness can tolerate, so he suggests a walk at 5:00 a.m. Though walking at that hour seems bizarre to Hunt’s character, she agrees. As they stroll along, Jack avoids the cracks in the sidewalk and attempts to convince Hunt that if they walk for just fifteen more minutes the local bakery around the corner will open and they won’t be weird people at all—“We’ll just be two people who like warm rolls.”
That line went straight to the heart of me and ignited an understanding about myself and my family I had not confronted. It forced me to acknowledge that what separates mentally disordered folks who behave in bizarre ways from the so-called normal folks can be a narrow as fifteen minutes and a stop at the bakery for warm rolls. I have spent far too much of my life trying to find, define and perfect normal when our life’s task is simply to find yourself. I’ve turned the corner and I just happen to like warm rolls now.