LivAbility Magazine

Edition 19 | Winter 2020

Illustration by Estefania Cavazos

A Look at Marin Sardy’s Experience Writing “The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia”

By Ambur Wilkerson

Every writer has their place. The place that they create, formulate, congregate, etc. For Marin Sardy, this place is a coffee shop, one she coins her “usual haunt.” On a typically sunny Southwest afternoon, Sardy invited us to this haunt, where she was found in a corner alongside a window that draped her in the desert sunshine.

In true writer fashion, she was typing away. She politely asked for a moment to finish her last sentence. Once she typed the last few words she wanted to document from her memory, she set her work aside and shared with us what it was like working on her latest body of work, “The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, schizophrenia’s prevalence in American adults is 0.25% to 0.64%, totaling about 1.5 million people. While mental illness is becoming a topic people are more willing to talk about and destigmatize, there is one group we must include in the conversation: the group of people who live with loved ones who have a mental illness.

Their pains and other experiences are sometimes overlooked, and sometimes they’re left in the dark when it comes to being educated on mental health. Sardy’s memoir explores these themes, for she is the daughter and sister of two people who have lived with schizophrenia.

The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia,” published May 21, 2019, is a personal narrative in which Sardy recounts memories and interests throughout her life, such as her knowledge of gymnast Svetlana Boginskaya and her bold fashion statements as a young adult.

Along with her personal reflections are details on moments with her mother, and brother, Tom, who she said were both diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Sardy candidly reveals her journey through learning more about her two relatives and their struggles and discovering how schizophrenia traveled throughout her family from generation to generation.

Another part of her journey she reveals is what it was like to hold onto familial bonds that she said were challenged by mental illness. Further in the book is where readers learn about the loss of her brother, Tom, who died by suicide.

She verbally illustrates the pain of seeing her loved ones ill:

“That several years later, after doctors and medications and our help have achieved little, after Tom has denied his illness and turned us away and landed in the soup kitchens and homeless shelters of downtown Anchorage, I’ll know this beach is where I lost him. And that years in the future, at a beach again while on vacation in Mexico, I’ll find myself running frantically along the shore, alone, looking out past the breakers as they beat at my ankles, hollering, “Tom! Tom! Tom!” Looking for him, knowing full well that he’s nowhere near Mexico. I’ll be sobbing as I run, and for several minutes I’ll refuse to stop calling his name.”

Sardy’s memoir is an honest, elaborate piece of literature that highlights mental illness, shows us what schizophrenia can look like through the perspective of an outsider not diagnosed with it, and navigates living through challenges.

When writing so transparently, it’s safe to assume it’s not easy.

Illustration by Alison Baionno

“I felt all the emotions. I felt it was incredibly therapeutic, but it wasn’t therapy. Does that make sense? You know, I have gone to therapy to deal with much of the things that have happened in my life,” Sardy said. “And if I hadn’t done that, I don’t think I would have been able to do the writing.”

The therapeutic feeling for Sardy bloomed from being vocal.

“The way that the writing was therapeutic, I think, was in breaking the isolation that I felt and in doing something so that I could feel like now this will be known and understood in the way that I need it to be seen and understood,” Sardy said.

Her way of making it seen was putting a microscope over what those with schizophrenia deal with and the neglect they face. Through her family, she’s had the chance to see firsthand how people with schizophrenia are treated.

“My feeling with schizophrenia is that people with schizophrenia are largely invisible … They’re often thought of as kind of not really people anymore, not deserving of the same kind of human consideration that other people get,” Sardy said. “I have seen that directed at my loved ones my entire life. I’ve also seen people do wonderful things for them.”

Exposing wrongdoings evoked therapeutic emotion within Sardy.

“But for me to be able to say that I’ve seen that and to share with the world the ways that I have seen my loved ones be mistreated and misunderstood has given me something,” Sardy said. “Maybe a sense of peace that I don’t think I could’ve had if I hadn’t.”

Sardy intends to normalize topics often seen as taboo, such as mental illness, and homelessness, an experience that her brother faced. Adrienne Sardy, Marin’s sister, wants that to be a focal point.

“I would want people to take away … how deeply humanizing her work is toward homelessness and mental illness,” Adrienne said.

Sardy notes in her book how her mother refuses treatment and a clinical diagnosis. Sardy addresses her mother as someone with schizophrenia in her memoir and in everyday life, so it’s only natural to question her mother’s reception toward the book.

“She understands that most other people in her life identify her as a person who has schizophrenia, and she is remarkably very okay with that. I think this speaks to what kind of a person she is—she believes everyone has their own perspective and she believes that I have the right to share my perspective,” Sardy said. “Her response, I mean, was complementary mostly, which is so sweet, but also, was that ‘Okay. Now I’m going to tell you how I see it, and we’re good.’”

Sardy also expressed gratitude for her mother, sharing that despite her mother’s different perspective, had her mother not been so supportive of her sharing that very same perspective, the book would’ve been less possible to write the way she needed to.

Sardy’s book took years. Eight total, she calculated. Her proofreader was her husband, Will Palmer.

He touched on the duality of the book. While it serves as a book about schizophrenia, Palmer highlights that it is a literary memoir, and he wants it to be seen by any who admire literary work. His aspiration for the memoir to be recommended in The New Yorker attests to this.

“It’s meant to be creative nonfiction,” Palmer said. “She had a lot of good response to it as beautiful writing.”

It is indeed beautiful writing. Sardy stays committed to detail, admirable unfiltered truth and vivid description throughout.

For Sardy, her writing is purposeful. She wants her words to uplift.

“There’s people who have been through the kinds of things that I write about in the book. What I want them to take away from it is a sense of hope and optimism,” Sardy said.

She also wants to bring major awareness.

I think I want to put schizophrenia on people’s radars as a real issue in this country that hasn’t been effectively dealt with,” Sardy said.

When asked what society can do to better support those with mental illnesses, her answer was rooted in two essential things: mental health resources and a willingness to listen to those with varying mental health conditions.

“To better support people with mental illness … we as a society need to properly fund mental health services,” Sardy said.

“Underlying this need is, I think, an even deeper need to listen to people living with mental health conditions about their experiences, and to learn from them what services are most valuable and provide the greatest benefits to their quality of life.”

So, what’s next for the author? Well, she’s working on her second book.

“I’m not ready to talk about it in much detail, but it continues my explorations of schizophrenia and of art as well,” Sardy said.

She also plans to deconstruct society’s view on disability.

“So much of what is considered disability is difference,” Sardy said. “Much of the suffering of people who live with mental illness does not come from the illness itself, but to the way it’s received in the world.”

There’s no doubt her work will continue to open up eyes and minds.

There’s also no doubt she’ll probably produce some of this work in a quaint coffee shop.

*If you’re having suicidal thoughts or need to talk to someone about suicide, please call the national hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.

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Ambur Wilkerson

Ambur Wilkerson is a 24-year-old content creator who loves storytelling. She received her B.A. in English with a focus in creative writing from California State University, San Bernardino in 2016 and her M.A. in journalism at The University of Arizona in 2019. She’s invested in topics such as social issues, mental health, entertainment, beauty, and lifestyle. To learn more about Ambur and her work, follow her on Instagram at @theamburnicole.

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