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My Brother's Journey from Genius to Simpleton: Battling with his mental illness and coping with his loss

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I may frankly not know what to make of mental illness. I sometimes even wonder if I have the right to say I am also mentally ill, or just have some mental challenges, some blues, depression and you name them. One very important denominator be in the east or west, is the stigma associated to the disease, condition or whatever name it gets. In Africa and in my country Camero I may frankly not know what to make of mental illness. I sometimes even wonder if I have the right to say I am also mentally ill, or just have some mental challenges, some blues, depression and you name them. One very important denominator be in the east or west, is the stigma associated to the disease, condition or whatever name it gets. In Africa and in my country Cameroon in particular, it is still a 'taboo' to talk about it. Marriages can be jeopardized if 'mental illness' is found from investigations, to run in any family. I wonder therefore if my brother would have ever gotten married. Fortunately maybe, my two other sisters already are, while I was too before my own challenges got me to run away. Maybe we were lucky. Several others aren't. Several wouldn't talk about their child's 'madness' whether he be dead or alive. I am however definitely not of that 'school of thought'. We have to break those barriers, taboos, stigma and all. This is the raison d'être of this book. I don't have answers to some questions that may be asked by readers. Where is God in all this? Couldn't it be some witchcraft or demonic attack involved? Why the albeit blind reliance on medication? What about therapy and alternative treatment? How did and is his family coping? I am just another caged bird with her own song to sing. Often than not, mothers are the ones to narrate such journeys. In our case however, it was and still is unfathomable for dear mum to do this. I have her blessing on this project and I wish this book helps several mothers out there to know they are treasured.


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I may frankly not know what to make of mental illness. I sometimes even wonder if I have the right to say I am also mentally ill, or just have some mental challenges, some blues, depression and you name them. One very important denominator be in the east or west, is the stigma associated to the disease, condition or whatever name it gets. In Africa and in my country Camero I may frankly not know what to make of mental illness. I sometimes even wonder if I have the right to say I am also mentally ill, or just have some mental challenges, some blues, depression and you name them. One very important denominator be in the east or west, is the stigma associated to the disease, condition or whatever name it gets. In Africa and in my country Cameroon in particular, it is still a 'taboo' to talk about it. Marriages can be jeopardized if 'mental illness' is found from investigations, to run in any family. I wonder therefore if my brother would have ever gotten married. Fortunately maybe, my two other sisters already are, while I was too before my own challenges got me to run away. Maybe we were lucky. Several others aren't. Several wouldn't talk about their child's 'madness' whether he be dead or alive. I am however definitely not of that 'school of thought'. We have to break those barriers, taboos, stigma and all. This is the raison d'être of this book. I don't have answers to some questions that may be asked by readers. Where is God in all this? Couldn't it be some witchcraft or demonic attack involved? Why the albeit blind reliance on medication? What about therapy and alternative treatment? How did and is his family coping? I am just another caged bird with her own song to sing. Often than not, mothers are the ones to narrate such journeys. In our case however, it was and still is unfathomable for dear mum to do this. I have her blessing on this project and I wish this book helps several mothers out there to know they are treasured.

7 review for My Brother's Journey from Genius to Simpleton: Battling with his mental illness and coping with his loss

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Peterson

    My Brother's Journey: From Genius To Simpleton by Marie Abanga is a moving tribute to her younger brother Gabriel, whose life was taken away far too soon by mental illness.  It includes not only Marie's words, but also the words of others who knew and loved her brother. In the book she shares what a kind person he was with great personal and academic promise until illness entered his life and irreversibly changed him.  The "simpleton" reference in the title reflects the challenges he had with per My Brother's Journey: From Genius To Simpleton by Marie Abanga is a moving tribute to her younger brother Gabriel, whose life was taken away far too soon by mental illness.  It includes not only Marie's words, but also the words of others who knew and loved her brother. In the book she shares what a kind person he was with great personal and academic promise until illness entered his life and irreversibly changed him.  The "simpleton" reference in the title reflects the challenges he had with performing basic tasks towards the end of his life.  The book includes letters he had written, which showed a clear decline given that he had previously done very well in school. He was diagnosed with epilepsy while he was still in school, and had multiple hospitalizations.  He was later diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.  He moved to Germany to further his studies, but ended up being deported because his illness was uncontrolled.  Marie shares how difficult it was when he returned home to Cameroon; it was difficult to tell which parts of what he was saying were real and which were not, and she described him as resembling a ghost. He later was able to get a visa to move to the United States.  At the time, it was thought that it would be the best thing for his health, and perhaps the "black magic" that affected him might not be able to cross the ocean.  However, his health further deteriorated there.    Marie describes the numerous challenges in trying to get adequate care for him, made even more difficult by the fact that his immediate family was back in Cameroon, and Marie was unable to get a visa to go to the U.S. When the family were informed that Gabriel had died, the cause was unknown.  Marie is openly critical of the health care system that let him down.  In particular she condemns the institution where he was held after an altercation with police.  She shares a letter her mother had written to the institution asking that his medical needs be addressed, but this seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Marie writes about the stigma around mental illness in Africa, where the subject is considered taboo.  Those who are ill may be shunned by their families and rejected by their communities, and may be talked of as being wicked, bewitched, or possessed. What really stood out for me was the prevailing attitudes in Cameroon regarding mental illness.  I've heard that ideas such as black magic exist, but this book really brought it to life.  It's also interesting that he seemed to do the best when he was in Cameroon, and worse when he was in countries with supposedly more advanced health care systems.  This is a sad story of a very promising young man who fell through the cracks – the very wide cracks – in the health care system.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emmie

  3. 5 out of 5

    Wee Puaycheng

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jules Fonba

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pepper McGowan

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nash

  7. 4 out of 5

    Igor

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