The thing about mental illness is that we don’t know what’s really going on inside of the head of a person who is mentally ill. We don’t know their sufferings, but we also don’t know their intentions, which is equally as troubling.
Zach is different; it’s evident from the beginning of the whole situation. Two teenage boys rush into a coffee shop and declare a robbery. Zach is supposed to wait there for his mother until 3:30 because he isn’t allowed to stay at home anymore by himself.
Zach knows this is a robbery, but he can’t help himself from asking the robbers questions. He asks their names, but they don’t tell their real names. He’s really hungry and the voices in his head say all kinds of things to him. There are several different voices. They all have names. They call him Wasteoid. Zach doesn’t like this.
As the story progresses the reader sees notes from Zach’s psychologist and Zach’s mother. Zach was found walking down by the river one night without shoes in the cold. He said zombies had been after him. Zach also tried to kill himself. That’s why he’s not allowed to stay home anymore. He takes doses of schizophrenia meds twice a day and the robbery has interrupted his dosage. The longer the robbery progresses the more the voices bug Zach. At one point he even has the opportunity to pick up one of the guns the robbers are using. What is he going to do with it? Some voices say shoot.
What I liked
This is a great book for trying to understand what’s going on inside of the head of someone who is mentally ill. Most often we speak of depression as our go-to mental illness, but there are other mental illnesses out there. It’s difficult for someone to understand what’s going on inside of the head of someone who has psychopathy, schizophrenia, depression, bi polar disorder, and any other mental disorder. It’s not simply a state of mind like some people think. People can’t flip a switch and not be a psychopath. People can’t flip a switch and not be depressed. Mental illnesses alter the way a person thinks. Brain chemicals and how they interact are altered.
This story gives us a glimpse into Zach’s brain. He hears voices. They tell him to do things. They call him names. This is nothing that he can help. These voices are dangerous. We read that one of them tells Zach to shoot when he picks up the gun. Zach has already tried to kill himself once. Zach is dangerous not only to himself, but to everyone around him.
Zach’s story is a reminder of the fact that we may not understand what’s going on in another person’s head and we shouldn’t really judge them for it. It’s also a reminder that we need to be careful around people. You never know if someone you say might set up a trigger for their mental illness. They might go home and kill themselves or they might kill you.
What I didn’t like
Zach’s story didn’t turn out so well. I don’t want to say what happened because you should read the book. Suffering with a mental illness is not easy. Zach was living a half-life. He tried to live like a normal person, but his mental illness was always there waiting for him. He was chained to a constant schedule of medication. He couldn’t be on his own. He was being tortured. He was living a life of torture.
When your life is like that, do you want to live it? Is it worth it? Don’t automatically do the old trite thing of automatically responding and saying, “Yes, it’s worth it.” Actually think about it. If you couldn’t do the things you loved, if you were always afraid your mental illness would do harm to others, if you constantly had to take medication to maintain a somewhat normal, if there was a constant argument in your head, would you want to continue on living? Would it even seem that you could go on living?
I’m not advocating mentally ill people not be alive anymore; I’m trying to explain to what extent a person with mental illness struggles. It’s a struggle for them to be alive. It’s a struggle to exist. Whereas you may not like getting out of bed in the morning, getting out of bed in the morning for them is a mental and physical mountain. Doing simple things is a struggle.
It’s unfortunate that we can’t figure this out. Some medications help and some medications harm, sometimes counseling helps, sometimes yoga helps, but in the end, we don’t have a cure for any mental illness. We can’t fix what went wrong chemically in a person’s brain. These people, like Zach, have to go through each day as a struggle and they don’t always win the fight.
I found this to be quite the fascinating book.
Do you feel that we often are unaware of the mental illness that is going on around us?
If you have read the book, do you think Zach is a hero or not