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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, written by Joanne Greenberg, has by far been the most difficult book to read and understand. With its difficulty aside, I couldn't set the book down. I found it so interesting to read what goes on inside a person's head who suffers from schizophrenia. It made me understand and appreciate why people with a mental illness behave the way they do. We can't see what goes on in their thoughts, or what they are feeling. So why are we so quick to judge? This book has taught me not to judge, or laugh at a person's behavior while suffering from an illness. It has made me have a greater sympathy and respect for the sufferers of mental illnesses. I can't imagine living in the mentality world as Deborah Blau. Her world was so real to her, the world of Yri. She couldn't escape. She couldn't betray her god Anterrabae. Imagine walking one day in her shoes. It's a scary thought.
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden has made me realize so many things.
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Deborah's schizophrenia was able to be traced back to the age of five, when her first words of Yr's were uttered. When she was five, she suffered from a tumor. She felt violated when the doctors examined her, and outraged when they told her there would be no pain. The truth is it was very painful for Deborah, and she did not appreciate the lies. Terrified, Deborah fled into her own world, the world she created on her own, the Kingdom of Yr.
The tumor was not the only thing that triggered Deborah to retreat to Yr. Although her early childhood surgery clearly had an important influence, there were many other things that took place in her life. Her grandfather's martyr complex, her father's shame at depending on her grandparents financially, the anti-Semitic prejudices of her peers and neighbors, and the jealousy created from birth of her younger sister Suzy all affected how Deborah expressed her illness.
Now, at the age of sixteen and a failed attempt of suicide, Deborah's father Jacob and her mother Esther decide to take up their family physicians advice. Dr. Lister recommends that Deborah be taken to a mental hospital for treatment. Her parents face self-doubt and self-blame. They are concerned about the reaction of their relatives to finding out about where Deborah was being sent. They decided on telling Esther's parents and Suzy that she is at a convalescent school.
In the hospital, Deborah is surrounded by a lot of people of her kind. Over the course of three years, she befriends some of them and is hurt by others. She hears about Dorris Rivera, a previous patient at the hospital that managed to leave the hospital and live a normal life. Deborah hopes she can someday do the same. The gods of Yr shout to Deborah that she could never go out into the world again, causing another psychotic episode. Deborah is transferred to the Disturbed ward, causing great concern from her parents.
Deborah's psychotic episodes often correspond with moments that reveal details of Yr to Dr. Fried. Although it may appear like her illness is getting worse, it actually is a sign that she is beginning to fight it. For years Deborah hid Yr, but now she feels no pressure to hide her illness, to live a lie. While Deborah struggles to free herself from her illness, her family is also undergoing a difficult coping process. Her parents stay strong as hard as it may be for them. They realize there is no quick easy cure for their daughter's illness. Therefore, they tell Suzy the truth about where her sister really is. Suzy unexpectedly understands.
There is a long road to recovery for Deborah that lies ahead. While in the hospital, Deborah continued to burn herself in order to ease the pressure of the "volcano inside her." She hid the burns well, and the doctors suggested moving her back to the B ward. Deborah knew that this may result in her death, therefore she revealed her burns. Deborah's burn wounds refused to heal. Meanwhile, Deborah decided that she would not use the patients' cigarette butts or Dr. Fried's matches to burn herself anymore. Deborah still experienced psychotic episodes. Once she wrote Yri words all over the bathroom, in her own blood. After this episode, Deborah begun to realize that the death she fears so much may not be a physical one.
At one point, Deborah threatens to give up her treatment. Dr. Fried told Deborah that the "poor little girl" could stay crazy forever if she would like. Yet she urged her to still try first. She reminded her that she never promised the fight to health would be an easy one. This is where the title of the book comes into play, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. She never promised the road to a happy, normal, healthy life would be fast and simple. It was a fight, a struggle.
Deborah still continued to suffer from frequent psychotic episodes, yet the staff begun to treat her more kindly now. Dr. Fried explained to Deborah that she never actually attempted to kill her younger sister Suzy when she was five. It was simply not physically possible. Deborah begun to realize that this all took place in her mind, this along with so much more.
Deborah requested that she be allowed to live in the nearby town. She took place in the social life in the town, and everyone eventually treated her with politeness. She finally, after three years, admitted to creating Yr and its gods herself. However, she still feared that they somehow might still be real. Deborah begun taking classes to prepare herself for the GED examination, for she realized she needed a high school diploma to get a job. She then experiences another psychotic episode. She feared that Yr no longer had its same logic now that she has begun to accept the laws of Earth. Regardless, she passed the GED exam with a high enough score to pursue a college degree if she wished to. Deborah suffers one last psychotic episode. She feared she would never be able to live like average people, the wall between her and them would always be there. After returning to consciousness, she opened her textbooks. She told the gods of Yr that she is going to fight for her place on Earth. Despite their attempts to hold her back, she wasn't giving in. For the first time in her life, Deborah was a normal determined young woman who had a future to look forward to.
Deborah's illness had its own language, its own logic. It would be too simple for us to dismiss Deborah's world as an "imaginary world." Her world was very real to her. Dr. Fried was able to understand and accept this "reality" or Yr. This was crucial for Deborah to gain trust in her. It was this trust that led to such a strong relationship. That trust and relationship led to Deborah's understanding of her illness. Without that understanding, fighting this illness would not have been possible. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden taught me so much about the struggles people face when overcoming mental illnesses. It showed me how it affects everyone, not just the patient. It gave me insight into the minds of these patients, which led to such a great understanding of what we see on the outside and what is really going on in the inside. Deborah's character shows reality, the reality that many people suffering from a mental illness face all there lives. Maybe all the medication and therapy in the world can't completely cure a patient. What it can do is guide them, teaching them how to live with this illness. They can maintain and fight this illness. They can adapt to live normal lives. It is possible. Deborah's character has shown this to me. Never give up hope or faith. Anything is possible. If you try hard enough, one can overcome any obstacle.