Jonathan Harnisch An Alibiography | Amazon and Goodreads | Top 5 Most Helpful Customer Book Review Number 1:
"It is astounding how individuals who are brilliant go unnoticed due to certain features of their internal and external selves. This is exactly the case with the author Jonathan Harnisch in his book, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography."
By William "BJ" Thomson on May 13, 2015
5 of 5 stars
It is astounding how individuals who are brilliant go unnoticed due to certain features of their internal and external selves. This is exactly the case with the author Jonathan Harnisch in his book, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography. In the simplest terms, I would compare the book to an infinite merry-go-round due to the sporadic nature and continuous delusions that made me question my own sanity. Jonathan is diagnosed with a whole spectrum of disorders, but one that stands out the most in the book is his diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder. Throughout the book, the author relived his moments of delusions, hallucinations, and despair to give an illustration of what the mind of an individual with schizoaffective disorder is like. The illustration resembled a foggy early morning in spring when walking outside and can’t see your hand in front of you. You may not be able to see your hand but you know that it is there. This is the case with the book, Ben knew he was there but couldn’t find himself due to the chaos that his own mind created.
The main character, Ben has an alter ego named Georgie Gust who he explores during his therapy sessions with Dr. C. Ben first began to express Georgie Gust when he robbed a bank using only a cellphone, instead of going to jail he received court ordered therapy because of his wealthy Father. Georgie reflects Ben in certain characteristics like having a trust fund and unstable relationship with his own father. Ben and Georgie are both hypnotized by the character Claudia Nesbitt. This character is not known to be a real person or not, but becomes an obsession of Georgie’s. In the fantasies of Ben, Claudia is a recurring person who is his torturer in sexual and emotional ways. In his delusions, she is always the women that he is chasing after.
Throughout the book, there is a main delusional point, which Ben explains, in great detail. The main delusion that I’ll explain is the Wakefield Academy because each one is repeated but with different settings and character names. Georgie is brought to the academy by his parents and is introverted until he meets two people, Claudia and Heidi. Claudia, like in many of his other delusions, is the women that he infatuated with. Georgie and Claudia build a strong relationship together, and attractions begin to form. However, their relationship is innocent compared to his other delusional scenarios, which during this one they are only on a small kiss and hand holding basis. Claudia is the opposite of Georgie in the sense that she is well liked and popular among her peers, but is gravitated toward Georgie due to his intelligence. Heidi is Georgie’s philosophy teacher who notices his brilliance and has a special interest in him. Both Claudia and Heidi have a sour past, including the death of Claudia’s Father and Heidi’s Sister. Heidi is the mentor for George that helps him develop his talents and starts to help him put his life together. The ending is both traumatic and heartwarming at the same time. Claudia kills herself by jumping off the cliff that Georgie showed her because of the depression she experienced from her Father’s death. On the contrary, Georgie wins the Wakefield Academy memorial scholarship that will pay for his college, which Heidi helped him receive. This delusion shows key elements in the disorder that Ben experiences. He longs for a meaningful relationship with people and creates these delusions to help fulfill those needs. In the delusion, he was able to overcome the negative odds, which can be related to his desire to be able manage his schizoaffective disorder.
Throughout the book, Ben writes of the adventures that Georgie experiences, which are ultimately delusions. This is a key factor in the diagnosing of schizoaffective disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Schizoaffective disorder is a condition in which a person experiences a combination of schizophrenia symptoms — such as hallucinations or delusions — and mood disorder symptoms, such as mania or depression”. This definition can be applied to the book in many different aspects. Referring to the hallucinations and delusions, the idea of Claudia supports the definition. She is placed in numerous scenarios that are all created by Ben’s own mind and are fueled with his alter ego Georgie. In one delusion she is a student at a private high school and in another she is the daughter of a wealthy man that lives in New York. Ben also experiences hallucinations and an example that he uses is “The landline rings all the time, often, quite a few times and they tell me to pick up, so I do” (Harnisch, 2014) referring to the voices that he hears, which influence him in different ways.
Schizoaffective disorder symptoms vary from person to person. However, the symptoms that Ben expresses throughout the book are: delusions, hallucinations, major depressed mood episodes, mania, problems with cleanliness and physical appearance, and paranoid thoughts and ideas. Each of these symptoms appeared throughout the book at different intervals. There are many examples of major depressive mood episodes throughout the book, but one that stands out is when he stated, “He slaps the snooze button. Half hit. Half miss. It’s all gross. He’s sweaty and ashamed. He can’t even get up. Another fucking horrible day in the life of … me. Georgie Gust.” (Harnisch, 2014). This is a prime example of a depressive episode by his inability to function at a basic level; he couldn’t even leave his own bed. With the inability to leave his bed, he wasn’t able to keep himself clean or his own home clean. In the context of mania, when Ben robbed the bank with a cellphone he was in a state of pure ecstasy and believed that nothing would go wrong. He stated that he was only doing it for the fun of it, which could have been because of his crack cocaine use at the time. Lastly, the symptoms of paranoid thoughts and ideas can be related to the book when Georgie states that “superficially nobody notices Georgie, the neighbors are really watching everything that happens at Georgie’s place.” (Harnisch, 2014) Georgie believes that the neighbors try and act like he’s not actually there when he tries to greet them, however he believes that they watch his every movement. This highlights the definition of paranoia because he has the suspicion and the mistrust of his neighbor’s actions, even though he has no evidence or justification to do so.
Throughout the entire book, the author gave a vivid description of what life is like with mental illness. He explained his own life while living with schizoaffective disorder and how difficult the disorder actually is. He described his alter ego Georgie and his obsessions with Claudia, even though in reality they all were delusions. Each delusion had a similar structure to each other. The author constructed the book so that people who have never suffered from mental illness could be able to feel the effects that they cause. He gave me an idea of what living with schizoaffective disorder is like. I did not only gain the understanding of schizoaffective disorder, but I gained understanding of my own self by his words of wisdom. He gave me the clear understanding of how valuable this life actually is and how we all as human beings have our own ups and downs. We all have our faults, but we have to continue to drive past them to become better individuals. Ben pushes to become a functional individual and understands that some days will be bad and some will be good. The main point that I learned about schizoaffective disorder is it is like an infinite merry-go-round. The disorder will continue to spin and spin and distort an individual’s perception but the speed of the spinning can be slowed to give moments of clarity.
Jonathan Harnisch An Alibiography | Amazon and Goodreads | Top 5 Most Helpful Customer Book Review Number 2:
By Kelci Christensen on May 5, 2015
5 of 5 stars
It is a story of how a man learned to cope with mental illnesses and how he learned that love is not a torturous sexual act or a
By Kelci on May 5, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography is a confusing, insightful book that gives the reader a peek into the mind of someone with a multitude of disorders ranging from schizoaffective disorder to Tourette’s syndrome to posttraumatic stress disorder. Jonathan Harnisch writes about his hallucinations and time in a psychotic ward due to his schizoaffective disorder. It jumps around from character to character, scene to scene and is often a bit obscene in terms of the content. While likely taken aback by the sexual encounters described, the reader receives a perspective of mental illness untainted by censorship. The books travel through the lives of Harnisch’s alter egos and show sides of his own self. He writes because he wants “To attain an ounce, a moment of seemingly impossible peace of mind, through complete honesty and self-love, by any means necessary” (p. 685). It is a story of how a man learned to cope with mental illnesses and how he learned that love is not a torturous sexual act or a beating. Throughout his writing, the symptoms of his many mental disorders are very present and are easily comparable to the DSM-5’s description of each disorder Harnisch has.
The schizoaffective disorder is the most prominent mental illness Jonathan has. It is a type of schizophrenia with a few specified differences. Comer (2014) references the DSM-5 definition of schizophrenia saying that it involves “Various psychotic symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, restricted or inappropriate affect, and catatonia” (p. 435). Comer (2014) gives key features of schizoaffective disorder stating that it is “Marked symptoms of both schizophrenia and a major depressive episode or a manic episode” (p. 435). Jonathan has episodes of depression and mania that he talks about throughout the book, but especially in his diary entries. For example, Harnisch writes about hating himself (a characteristic of depression), “Because I’ve got a big fat gut full of hatred” (p. 270). On page 294 Harnisch sounds hopeless when he writes, “I think of lost love. I think of the loss of my childhood and the loss of my life” (p. 385). Even Jonathan’s alter egos tear him down by saying things to him such as when Georgie called “Ben” “stinky, dirty, overgrown, hairy, scarred...Just look at you, Ben” (p. 353). Though Jonathan struggles on and off with self-esteem and self-worth, it was encouraging to read that he did express instances of feeling pride and loving himself. It was particularly encouraging to read a diary entry of Jonathan’s on pages 294-295 that states, “…I’ve got to stop this hating myself garbage and really start to love myself for all that I am, not hating myself for what I am not. Anyway…Onward bound.” It was enjoyable to read that he expressed the drive to keep moving forward.
Harnisch mentions getting a lot done when he is experiencing mania, or more specifically, hypomania. This is also a characteristic of bipolar II disorder. Comer defines bipolar II disorder as “A type of bipolar disorder marked by mildly manic (hypomanic) episodes and major depressive episodes” (p. 246). Jonathan points out some of the positive symptoms that come along with hypomania by stating, “Cool s***e, feeling the runner’s high in the writing zone. I can handle the mania. So it’s sure worth the depression, when it comes” (p. 353). The hypomania can often aid people in getting a large amount of tasks done because it is a mild form of mania and people move at a very fast pace. In one diary entry, Jonathan writes out his thoughts as they come, and they do not make a ton of sense to the reader. He states, “I’m manic today, so I’m to journal all my stream-of-thought today” (p. 349). It was also easy to see Jonathan’s scattered thoughts and fast pace through listening to him as he talked with our class. He often would jump from one subject to another and get easily off track.
Another symptom of schizophrenia is hallucinations. There are countless times where Harnisch brought up the fact that he was hallucinating. His alter egos showed the symptom of hallucination, as well. Jonathan talks about a man he would see running by Ben’s home every day, regardless of the weather. However, it seemed that “…no one else in my family has ever seen him” (p.364). The man was a hallucination. In a diary entry he wrote, “I just heard from my psychiatrist and apparently there are a few more people in my life who I’ve just now been told are hallucinations and that I am their hallucination” (p. 365). Harnisch writes about Georgie, describing him as, “…just a figment of my imagination, a literary device, or a delusion” (p. 275). Some hallucinations can be visual, but other times they are simply voices. Jonathan can hear and see hallucinations. Sometimes, when the vocal hallucinations would stop, he could still see things. This is proven on page 413 when he writes, “The whispering voices have dissipated, but perceptual hallucinations are still present.”
The symptoms of the mental illnesses Jonathan Harnisch has seem endless. It is clear that his life has been a battle for quite some time. The sexual obsession he had with Claudia, the sexual abuse, and the prominence of sex in the book was caused by sexual abuse. In one scene in the book, though it was during Ben’s part, his mother’s friend undressed in front of him while in another scene, Ben’s mother came to him and raped him because she was struggling with her divorce. Other instances in the book point to emotional abuse and neglect from Ben’s father. It was heartbreaking to read about the rape and the bullying. However, thanks to the privilege of talking to Jonathan in the classroom and a few clues in the book, I now know that the story has a happy ending. The mental illnesses have not gone away in Jonathan’s life and never will be completely gone, but there is hope. Today, Jonathan receives help from a caregiver and visits a cognitive behavioral therapist. He makes movies and journals frequently to express his thoughts.
As I read, and was continuously confused, I figured out that this is what Jonathan feels like all the time. His hallucinations and mental illnesses make him just as confused as I was reading the book. It gave me a lot more empathy for those with schizoaffective disorders. His book will have an impact on anyone who picks it up and will help others not to judge those with mental illnesses like Jonathan Harnisch’s. It truly is an impactful book.
Jonathan Harnisch An Alibiography | Amazon and Goodreads | Top 5 Most Helpful Customer Book Review Number 3:
By Carrie Egnatowski on May 5, 2015
5 of 5 stars:
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was rather confused while reading Jonathan’s book. His book took me on an adventure I never thought I would go on. There were ups, down, and plenty of unexpected scenarios. The book is written mostly in the viewpoint of Georgie Gust, who is from my understanding, Jonathan’s alter ego. From how it is written, it appears that a character named Ben Schreiber takes the place of Jonathan. The book is a one long story being told by Ben to his therapist, Dr. C. There are many parts throughout that book where it is hard to discern what is reality and what is imaginary, but I have come to realize that is exactly what life is like for Jonathan. The first one hundred or so pages of the book are all about Georgie. Georgie has issues, but he is recovering. He lives alone, but his friend Margaret comes to visit him often. That is, until a woman named Claudia moves in next door. Georgie becomes obsessed with Claudia, and ends up in a very strange relationship with her. Georgie has a fetish for pain, and so he pays Claudia to torture him so he can get off on it. The last thing that happens in this portion of the book is Claudia killing Georgie, and then he wakes up inside of a mental institution wearing a straightjacket. It is in this portion of the book that Ben says to Georgie, “I’m not your alter ego, Georgie; you’re mine. You’re not real. You’ve never been real” (Pg. 175). This was the moment I really started to understand the book, and found out that Ben must represent Jonathan in the story (Harnisch, 2014).
From what I have learned about Jonathan in class, he has schizoaffective disorder. Schizoaffective disorder is like schizophrenia, but mixed with bipolar disorder. Jonathan also suffers from anxiety. Jonathan’s book helps people to see what it is like inside the head of someone with a mental illness. Thoughts are jumbled and confusing, as is the writing in his book. It is amazing to have had Jonathan in class via video call because I have learned a lot about mental illness from him. I have seen a short glimpse of what living with mental illness is like, both through seeing him in class and through reading his book (Edwards, 2015).
To gain a better understanding of Jonathan and his illness, I searched the National Alliance on Mental Illness website for more information about schizoaffective disorder. In many cases, the disorder is misdiagnosed either as a mood disorder or as schizophrenia. From what I can remember in class discussion, this is what happened to Jonathan. This disorder affects approximately 0.3% of the population, both men and women. Symptoms include hallucinations and delusions as seen in schizophrenia, and both manic and depressive moods as seen in bipolar disorder. There are several different causes linked to the development of schizoaffective disorder, but one definitive cause has not been found. Treatments include the use of antipsychotic and mood controlling medications, psychotherapy, and self-management (NAMI).
After learning that Georgie was Ben’s alter ego, I started to connect a few obvious symptoms that Jonathan must struggle with every day. Hallucinations and delusions are a common symptom of both schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia. I believe that much of the book may be a huge delusion because the pieces of the puzzle do not always match up.
When describing the behaviors and thoughts of those with mental illness, professionals often refer to the Four D’s: deviance, distress, dysfunction, and danger. There are so many different behaviors with so many different illnesses, but these four categories are the basis for abnormal diagnosis. Most people will never notice if someone is struggling with mental illness because although they may be very reclusive and antisocial, they will normally appear happy in front of others (Comer, 2014). Different mental illnesses also cause different people to behave in certain ways. Women who struggle with depression normally lose motivation, they may cry a lot, or stay in bed most of the day. On the other hand, men who struggle with depression often show more anger and aggression and may end up in prison rather than receiving treatment (Edwards, 2015).
Those who struggle with mental illness, like Jonathan, not only face the symptoms of the disorder but also the negativity placed on mental illness by society. Many people struggle with mental illness, and it is not something of which to be ashamed. Unfortunately, most people struggling will not seek treatment because of the stigma surrounding mental health. A common misconception about mental illness is that it defines the identity of a person. Clinical psychologist Ryan Howes says, “You aren’t your diagnosis, you are a complex, vital person coping with an illness.” This is important for people with or without mental illness to keep in mind. It is not anyone’s fault that someone has a mental illness, and it is no one’s job to judge someone for struggling. The stigma of mental health can be just as damaging, if not more, as the illness itself (Tartakovsky, 2012).
Another view on stigma revolves around the diagnosis of an illness. Human beings are flawed, and so many clients do end up being misdiagnosed by their therapist. A misdiagnosis can lead to the client acting the part, but not actually experiencing the symptoms. The same goes for any diagnostic label. In a survey done by the Opinion Research Corporation, it was discovered that “33% of Americans would not seek counseling for fear of being labeled mentally ill” (Comer, 2014). It is so important for society to accept all of the people like Jonathan, all of the people who secretly deal with mental illness. Accepting people for what they cannot control will allow more people to seek help willingly, and will save so many lives. If more people start seeking help, then the suicide rates will decrease. The average suicide rate in the United States alone is almost twice as high as the global average, and the rate in Missouri is a little over twice as high as nationally (Edwards, 2015).
The very end of Jonathan’s book is a chapter from him to his readers about his life and condition. He talks about why he wrote this book, and what it is like to live with the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. He wrote the book to help people understand what it is like to live with mental illness and to reach out to those who are struggling (Harnisch, 2014). It is truly amazing to me what he has gone through, and yet he remains strong. Jonathan is an inspiration and a role model for anyone, especially those who struggle with mental illness. The entire book is a roller coaster; the further you read the more ups, downs, and spirals you find. It is definitely a powerful book, and really helps people to understand what mental illness is and what it is like for the person struggling with it.
Jonathan Harnisch An Alibiography | Amazon and Goodreads | Top 5 Most Helpful Customer Book Review Number 4:
Pages Turn Reality on its Head!
By C. Edwards on December 7, 2014
5 of 5 stars
The fierce reality of mental illness is shaken into pages, that turn quickly, as you are invited into the mind and soul of a man without the controls that so many of us take for granted. The picture of mental illness, painted by Harnisch's own life, is a hefty dose of reality; sorely needed in these days when mental illness and treatment are neglected and disparaged by the body politic and society at large. As you learn about the daily battles fought within the mind, you are at once disturbed and then again drawn with baited breath to turn another page. Harnisch has a rare talent for presenting very controversial and taboo subjects easily and with grace. The reader is thrown into the whirlwind mind ravaged with disease, and saturated with promiscuity and addiction. You find the line between reality and madness tenuous at best. You are challenged to see the world through the eyes of a tormented soul and to discern along with Georgie/Ben/Claudia what is real and what is not real. As both a practitioner and consumer of mental health services, I highly recommend this book. I teach undergraduate psychology and will be using the works of Harnisch in my classes in coming semesters! Give us more Jonathan!!
Jonathan Harnisch An Alibiography | Amazon and Goodreads | Top 5 Most Helpful Customer Book Review Number 5:
By Bellany329 on January 5, 2015
5 of 5 stars
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very different and kept me interested.