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Michael Schofield’s daughter January is at the mercy of her imaginary friends, except they aren’t the imaginary friends that most young children have; they are hallucinations. And January is caught in the conflict between our world and their world, a place she calls Calalini. Some of these hallucinations, like “24 Hours,” are friendly and some, like “400 the Cat” and “Wednesday the Rat,” bite and scratch her until she does what they want. They often tell her to scream at strangers, jump out of buildings, and attack her baby brother.
At six years old, January Schofield, “Janni,” to her family, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, one of the worst mental illnesses known to man. What’s more, schizophrenia is 20 to 30 times more severe in children than in adults and in January’s case, doctors say, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her.
A New York Times bestseller, January First captures Michael and his family's remarkable story in a narrative that forges new territory within books about mental illness. In the beginning, readers see Janni’s incredible early potential: her brilliance, and savant-like ability to learn extremely abstract concepts. Next, they witnesses early warning signs that something is not right, Michael’s attempts to rationalize what’s happening, and his descent alongside his daughter into the abyss of schizophrenia. Their battle has included a two-year search for answers, countless medications and hospitalizations, allegations of abuse, despair that almost broke their family apart and, finally, victories against the illness and a new faith that they can create a life for Janni filled with moments of happiness.
A compelling, unsparing and passionate account, January First vividly details Schofield’s commitment to bring his daughter back from the edge of insanity. It is a father’s soul-baring memoir of the daily struggles and challenges he and his wife face as they do everything they can to help Janni while trying to keep their family together.
In this dramatic memoir, Schofield, who teaches writing at California State University, explains the mental illness of his young daughter January. During the two years chronicled in the book (when Jani is aged four to six), he attempts to help his daughter, but finally he and his wife accept that she is not just a precocious, forceful little girl with an unusually high number of imaginary friends. The devastating truth: Jani's imaginary friends are near-constant hallucinations, and her violent outbursts and dangerous impulses are a product of child-onset schizophrenia. Schofield's descriptions of his family's struggles along the frustrating, road to a diagnosis the numerous doctors and ineffectual medications, marital problems, Jani's and the author's suicide attempts are thoughtfully detailed. But Schofield also offers valuable insight for others in similar situations, and ends on a hopeful note to his family's unorthodox approach to dealing with Jani.