One book I’ve read over and over in my life is Joanne Greenberg’s I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. I love how “Deborah’s” therapist “Dr. Fried” aimed and got a cure for her young schizophrenic patient. The book was autobiographical and described how a young socially maginalized Jewish girl becomes ill with schizophernia and goes away for three years to a mental hospital and misses most of her adolescence but gains wisdom, makes friends and gets cured in what seems like a cruel place but is her redemption. The actual hospital, Chestnut Lodge was a mental hospital for the rich and famous, and “Deborah’s” or well, Joanne’s, parents were rich. I always knew she got better and went on to write books and got married but didn’t really know the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would put it until I went into a bookstore and read the Afterword (finally!) of this book’s latest edition. Ms. Greenberg really DID get the happy ending and I did not. We were both hospitalized at 16 for mental problems but she was given the luxury of being able to live life afterwards without ever relapsing when her therapy was finally over 5 years after she was admitted for the first time.
She got the husband, the kids, the house, several careers, speaking engagements, fame and now she is respected as a religious teacher who YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME prepares Bar and Bat Mitzvahs for their ceremonies. Oh the irony. She has a website with a blog that describes her religious life. I got nothin’ Not even religion. I can’t even be comfortable around God after I heard I “lost my Salvation”. All because I got targetted and she didn’t. I wanted her future. I was on my way to a future by 1987. I had left that hospital, gotten my GED, got off the pills, was feeling better emotionally as the hospital scars faded, was back in college after taking a year off and doing well, had lost weight and felt well, and then I saw the first stalkers.
Why, God? Why didn’t a get the happy “Rose Garden” ending? The book ends on an ambiguous note but it’s obvious she is on the fast track to Wellville then. One thing I noticed that many didn’t was that one of the main players in her inner dramas came from a PICTURE OF MEPHISTOPHELES in her Grandfather’s library. Yes, ladies and germs, the Devil. She had gotten demonized from long hours of isolation and fantasizing about creatures she found in her Grandfather’s library.
Somehow, her Doctor, the famous Frieda Fromm in real life, managed an “exorcism” through long hours of hard therapy. I look back on my fantasy world and much of it is demonic. I liked to live in my fantasy world all the time as well but was scared out of it a few years ago and still visit but never stay. OK I admitted it.
Fantasies are the fruit of an idle mind and can be the devil’s workshop. Idle vain thoughts can become an inner world that becomes so powerful that its almost impossible to break free. This brilliant doctor was able to pick apart “Deborah’s” fantasies and delusions and debunk and disempower them over a slow and painful process of psychotherapy which would be too expensive and time consuming today. She started by gaining “Deborah’s” trust and asking to be let into her world which she showed the Doctor bit by bit over time. “Deborah” got much worse before she got much better–something these quick fix mental hospitals with their med stabilizing routines would never do. They did not merely go around the problem with coping skills and pills and DBT classes. They took the mountain head on and demolished it!!!! It is like reading a miracle of Jesus in slow motion.
I remember people trying to get me to kick MY fantasies at 16 and it utterly failing because I had nothing to back it up with and ended up falling thru the air right into a locked ward. My world, like “Deborah’s” was darkness and isolation so leaving the lighter world of my fantasies for cruel reality was merely torment. I did try, however. Some of the characters in the book would act “well” for awhile but the illness lurked in the shadows waiting to strike again since they had not acheived a full cure nor taken the demons of their illness head on. They would come back with a relapse, patch up, and then leave again for another “round” in the world.
“Deborah’s” doctor went through a long slow process to show her patient how reality was superior to her fantasy life by showing her that life did not have to be ugly and that her fantasies and characters that ruled her inner life were scams. No one ever took that time with me. I LEARNED it over time how fantasies are scams and time wasters and how they make it easy for the devil to introduce occultic ideas and characters into your inner being degrading you and ruining your relationship with God.
Dreams good, fantasies not so good. Joanne Greenberg began settling for the fantasies but ended up getting the Dream.
She continued in therapy and even had a hospital admission in 1953 at about 21 but that was it. After she got a GED, she had to carry “sanity papers” to apply for college only to be told her info was not confidential. She ended up at another college which began her long college career. She worked in the summer. She met her husband, Albert, at a party, and I think it was love at first sight.
She meets her old therapist for the last time in New Mexico on a working vacation. Things did not go so well for her old therapist. Her health deteriorated and her psychoanalytic skills were no longer sought after when the pills took over the scene. She died young only a few years after she stopped seeing Greenberg.
When she and her husband first moved to Colorado they lived in a garage. She was prompted to write her first novel, The King’s Persons, by her husband based on a school project she did. Her husband did vocational counseling which prompted to write the book The Monday Voices.
She had slight after effects of her illness and would become weary after a long period of socializing. I have this problem too, but never have to worry about it much as a ti.
She became inspired to write “Rose Garden” at another party but had to change her name on the cover at the request of her mother. It was not an instant best seller but grew popular slowly. She hated the movie version of the book. I loved it.
She now lives in a lovely mountain home amongst family and friends. I live in a version of Hell. I suppose, you might say, she got the American Dream and I got the Nightmare.
I feel as if my future was stolen from me. I wrote her at 17 right out of the hospital and I got a one line reply saying my future might not be as bad as the past. Yeah right. Well, at least at the time I got the letter back I felt I could have had a future.