A Conversation withMichael Schofield, author of
A Memoir (Crown; August 7, 2012)
Photo Credit: Ivy Brown
Q: From her early infancy, it was clear that your daughter January (“Jani”) was unique and brilliant, even testingwith an IQ of 146 at the age of four. When did you begin to think that Jani’s differences might be related to anillness?A:
When other parents would suggest that something was wrong with Jani, I ignored them, but inside their suggestions made me angry. To me, Jani was a genius, and throughout history most geniuses have beenmisunderstood.It wasn’t until the violence began around the time our son, Bodhi, was born that I had to face that there wassomething wrong. During those moments of sudden, intense violence, like what I describe in chapter 5, I would holdJani down to keep her from going after Bodhi, and I would try to get her to make eye contact with me to calm her down. And when she would look into my eyes, I didn’t see my daughter there. I saw something else.But even then I still clung to the belief that this violence was coming from being a genius trapped in the body of asmall child. For me, the moment that I finally had to accept there was an illness was the first time I went to visit Janiat BHC Alhambra Hospital. She’d never been away from either Susan or myself, and I fully expected her to beterrified. But she wasn’t. She was happy, happier than I’d seen her since she was a toddler. It was like she had finallyfound the friends she’d always wanted, only she found them in a psych ward.
Q: How has your marriage to Susan evolved since Jani’s birth? How have you learned to cope as a couple in theface of Jani’s schizophrenia?A:
We almost didn’t make it. Because Jani needed constant stimulation and we had no family or friends who could provide the level of stimulation she needed, Susan and I began to see each other as the “relief shift.” We either worked or we had Jani. There was nothing else. And taking Jani was much harder than working, so whichever parenthad Jani would get increasingly resentful.When the violence and hospitalizations began, we turned on each other constantly, dragging up and throwing in eachother’s faces every mistake we had ever made with Jani. I think that when you feel like you are losing your child tosomething you can’t identify and doctors have no answers, you start to turn on everyone around you.What saved our marriage was the realization that whatever Jani had was not just her “misbehaving” and that sheneeded both of us to fight for her. I think it was fighting the school district that really made me feel as if Susan and Iwere a team again, both focused on the goal of making sure Jani was happy. So the irony is that while the stress of