Book Ends: Eyebrows and Other Fish by Anthony Scally
Reviewed by Columnist Kurt Sass
“Eyebrows and Other Fish” is a self published book written by a mental health consumer from England. I found the book to be both extremely impressive and interesting.
The impressive parts of the book is what I found to be the amazing insight Mr. Scally has into his schizophrenia, its manifestations and consequences. The truly impressive part is his keen awareness of the full picture even when he is going through the worst of his symptoms, including extreme paranoia and obsessiveness, for example. He is able to identify when he is being paranoid and obsessive, and can relate it in full detail, which I will give a partial example of later.
Mr. Scally also does an excellent job when it comes to defining what he is facing and what he has to deal with when going through an episode. One example is that absolutely everything he reads, hears or sees takes on added significance and he must analyze it backwards, forwards and sideways. Things such as advertisements, license plates and colors all have special, important meanings that must be figured out. It becomes a mission to him.
The interesting parts of the book to me are the details of the thought patterns that go on while Mr. Scally is going through an episode. Just one of the many examples in the book is as follows: His girlfriend’s mother had given him a present of aftershave with the word BOSS on it (I’m assuming Hugo BOSS). This immediately got Mr. Scally to thinking this was a way of the mother letting him know that his girlfriend was sleeping with her boss and that is how he got the crabs he had just contracted a few weeks ago, and that this was her way of warning him about her daughter. Or perhaps, he then thought, the gift was the mother’s way of saying that she was the boss and that she holds all the cards. Then his thoughts raced to the possibility that maybe BOSS stood for something, perhaps “Back Off, She’s Sorry,” or “Brain Operation Soon, Scally.”
This book chronicles Mr. Scally’s life from 1990-2006. During this time he has many good phases and some dark ones, too. As with many people that have psychiatric disabilities, he has stopped taking his medications on numerous occasions, and that is usually when his symptoms started to reoccur.
It would be so easy to condemn Mr. Scally for ceasing to take his medication while they were obviously working, but once again, he does an excellent job in explaining their debilitating side effects. He writes that, in addition to the various side effects he suffered, from muscle stiffness, Parkinsonism, erectile dysfunction, constant dry mouth and sedation, that the medication also “impedes my momentum for life itself.” After reading that, it is very easy to see the struggle of medication vs. side effects.
I did not even get into Mr. Scally’s childhood, which sadly was horrific, nor his support system, which between his girlfriend, social worker and advocacy group is for the most part pretty good. You’ll have to read the book to find out more, which I totally recommend you do.