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A brilliant and harrowingly honest memoir, January First is the extraordinary story of a father's fight to save his child from an extremely severe case of mental illness in the face of overwhelming adversity.
At six years old, Michael Schofield's daughter, January, was diagnosed with one of the most severe cases of child-onset schizophrenia that doctors had ever seen. In January's case, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her. January, "Jani" to her family, has literally hundreds of imaginary friends. They go by names like 400-the-Cat, 100 Degrees, and 24 Hours and live on an island called "Calalini," which she describes as existing "on the border of my world and your world." Some of these friends are good, and some of them, such as 400, are very bad. They tell her to jump off buildings, attack her brother, and scream at strangers.
In the middle of these never-ending delusions, hallucinations, and paroxysms of rage are Jani's parents, who have gone to the ends of the earth to keep both of their children alive and unharmed. They live in separate one-bedroom apartments in order to keep her little brother, Bohdi, safe from his big sister--and wage a daily war against a social system that has all but completely failed them. January First is the story of the daily struggles and challenges they face as they do everything they can to help their daughter while trying to keep their family together. It is the inspiring tale of their resolute determination and faith.
January First is the story of the author’s struggles to figure out what is happening in his daughter’s mental health. January, his daughter, is anti social, shows violent tendencies, and is incredibly intelligent. She also has imaginary friends she insists are very real and changes her name daily. After the birth of Schofield’s second child, January’s behavior becomes exponentially worse.
This book was terrifying and fascinating. Schofield catalogs experiences with many mental health professionals, January’s reactions to the various drugs they prescribe, and their inability to find anything that works. It’s so scary to imagine someone you love behaving and suffering the way January does. I definitely got invested in this story, hoping for a happy ending for Schofield and his family.
One complaint/caution I have about this book is that it is only one man’s perspective. He has awful interactions with health professionals and I had to remind myself regularly that the way a person views a situation is not always the whole story. Schofield has a tendency to paint the health professionals as the bad guys. I like to hope they were acting in what they thought was January’s best interests.
Overall, I thought the book was terribly interesting and gave it four stars.
Have any of you read January First? What did you think?