My Dear Reader,

At age thirty, right around my birthday, something significant happened, and I didn’t really understand what it was: I became a schizophrenic.

I can’t show you physically what I have. It is impossible to prove that I have a brain disease using any scientific test based on current medicine and technology. The diagnosis was and could only be based on what I told doctors about my behaviors and experiences. I never felt there was anything wrong with me or my brain. I never saw a big cut with blood gushing out. I did not have a deadly headache that affected how I lived my life.

What I can do is to tell you a story. I want to tell you about what I experienced from my perspective, with vivid description and my most complete memory. I have thought about this part of my life over and over again during the last decade, looking for logical patterns to make sense of it all. With every reflection and every new experience with schizophrenia, I see my brain and myself more clearly.

This is a personal story from the non-clinical perspective of an independent and educated adult woman with schizophrenia. I hope by sharing this, you can get a sense of what schizophrenia has been like for me, so we can all better understand this incredible brain disease.

Mindy Tsai

Mindy Tsai

First Readers' Impressions

Honest, brave and beautiful written

Becoming Whole is a beautifully written memoir of a woman’s journey with schizophrenia. The author tells the story of her journey in a way that is relatable and well written in its honesty. Schizophrenia is a subject that still to this day is shrouded in shame and mystery. The author talked about Joe, the other within her, with love and compassion. This was my revelation: We’ve long believed that this illness only compels the expression of mental demons and devils, What Ms. Tsai describes is something so much more nuanced and personal. She reminds us through this wonderful memoir that we need to bring a compassion to people with mental differences. This memoir is about the multiple facets of the the human spirit and the struggles to regain ones footing and return to a life. Becoming Whole is about compassion, self empowerment and the complex and messy work of being human.

Entertaining and educational – a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a schizophrenic

I couldn’t put the book down. Genuinely a well-crafted and compelling story about a woman dealing and learning more about her brain and schizophrenia. More needs to be learned about mental illness and we all need a way to talk about it with each other. Becoming Whole is a nice introduction to schizophrenia. While by no means a comprehensive encyclopedia about the illness, the story helps you learn to be more open-minded to learn more about it. Mindy gives you a glimpse into her brain and her journey to understand her illness. This book is not clinical nor research oriented so it’s also very entertaining and a fun read, even if you have little interest in schizophrenia. Highly recommend you read it one Sunday morning in a coffee shop or on the beach!

We all know people with mental illness whether we acknowledge it or not

I found this book to be insightful, disturbing, uplifting and very well written. The first hand account of both how few of “us” know how to deal with or help people with mental illness and the lack of available top flight medical/mental help was highly troubling. The long road, that took years, that Ms. Tsai traveled to get to a much better place was inspiring and gave hope that everyone can move forward.We all know people with mental illness whether we acknowledge it or not.

Get it at your local library!

Did you know you could ask your library to buy copies of the book at no cost to you?

Call your local library and request they purchase copies of the book, and include it in your next book club rotation!

And if you’re in the Boston area, you can find my book at Trident Booksellers and Cafe in Back Bay or Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner.

And THANK YOU to those who are reading it for your bookclubs already!

About the Cover

The book cover was designed by my good friend Frederikke Tu, a Danish American artist. She drew inspiration from my story and the Swedish artist Hilma of Klint. Frederikke combined the idea of the brain with scientific and mathematical, beautiful and calm images. When I saw her design, the cover immediately resonated with me.Here is how I interpret the cover art: In the middle is my brain. The white sparkles around the brain are synapses that fire in the brain. I have lots of them and sometimes extra ones. The black dot in the yellow circle could be Joe, my first voice and a voice that I thought about often. The yellow circle is everything that happened around Joe. Then the purple circle is everything that happened with voices of my friends and family. All of these experiences light up in my brain. Other experiences are depicted by the black circles. The bottom part is my normal brain, which let me live and work. My brain is split apart.

Mindy Tsai

Acknowledgements

Many people have helped me in finding my voice and putting thoughts on paper. I want to thank Benjamin Yosua-Davis who worked with me through early drafts while I was still puzzling different pieces of my memory into something readable. I want to thank Beth Brinsfield who ensured that I had a strong voice and purpose and connected the dots, so I could say what I wanted to say more clearly. To Bernard Chen and Margery Hauser, as my first readers and collaborators of writing, thank you for encouraging me when I first started searching for ideas and reasons to put words down on paper and share. To my family and friends, Dr. Freudenreich and Deborah, and other caregivers, thank you for reading the countless versions of drafts, starting from the first shitty and fragmented draft and for boosting my confidence to continue my writing journey. Most of all, thank you for being part of my life.