Imagine that you are renowned as one of the finer judges of your country. You are at the apex of your career, having spent decades studying law and applying care and diligence to that profession. You are brilliant; a man who others wish to be.
Then, your own mind turns on you.
You wake up one morning obsessed with the thought that it would be “pleasant” to experience sex as a woman. Being alarmed at this thought, which goes against the morals of your society, you become certain that your doctor has planted this idea in your head via telepathy. You are certain that this doctor is using “nerve language” to influence you, which is a special form of communication that humans are unaware of.
Suddenly, you are certain that hundreds of souls are watching you, being intensely interested in your doings. They are communicating with you via divine rays that demand favors. In the midst of all of this, you are certain God is turning you into a woman via these same rays.
Your career, marriage, everything you worked so hard for is drifting away. You are helpless within your own mind.
This is not fiction. This is an actual memoir by the man who suffered from undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia: Daniel Paul Schreber (1842 – 1911.)
Schreber lived in a difficult time for the mentally ill. Diagnoses were sketchy at best, and often treatment of mental illness involved physical abuse. He suffered mentally and physically for long periods of time, with occasional bursts of horrible sanity.
This book is one of the most effective horror books I’ve ever read. It is an intense ride through the perspective of the man going through this inescapable nightmare.
Psychiatrists and psychologists made much of this book over the last century, sometimes to advance their pet theories. Freud suggested that Schreber suffered from latent homosexual desires. Becuase, of course, everyone in the closet hears voices commanding them to do things. Right?
Basically, Freud was blowing his own cigar smoke up is a**. But that’s neither here nor there.
The book is an amazing read on its own. Writers need to know a little about psychology in order to create realistic people making choices that are valid to them. This book lets you peek into the mind of someone who’s psychology is utterly broken.
Plus, it gives you a new insight and empathy to people who currently suffer from mental illness.