Greenberg’s Hurry down Sunshine

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Because psychotic disorders are unpredictable, sadness and grief are unavoidable when they emerge. Nothing is more terrifying than a circumstance in which a loved one suddenly begins acting strangely and experiencing horrific situations that they are only passing through. In Michael Greenberg's novel Hurry Down Sunshine, his daughter suffers from a psychotic episode during the summer of 1996. The 15-year-old girl is whisked away and irreversibly to a new realm that no one else in the family appears to understand. Sally describes her distressing experience of traveling on and on with a place she will never return to, which is unheard of in the family. Her father gets more confused when his daughter starts behaving as if the two were strangers yet they had become best friends since her childhood. At some point she forgets her step-mother, Pat, which is evidently a symptom of a worsening psychotic condition. The memoir in the novel clearly defines the real situation in the event of psychosis in human beings (Greenberg, 2009, pg.13).

The condition worsens when Sally gets into a feverish mental state and becomes dramatic. Extreme writing, pacing, talking, and arguing become awkward expressions of the young, confused soul. Her parents are obliged to take her to hospital for medical treatment to find a cure for the maniac depression experienced by their daughter. The new environment becomes depressing as the society and family ties got cut off. Sally receives no special treatment in the room she gets allocated, and as if that is not enough, her family gets restricted from visiting her. The only company she gets at the moment is people of her caliber, those who have extreme symptoms of mental disorders. One of her comrades, Noah, believes he has attained 'devaykah,' a Jewish name for communion with God. The young Jewish man keeps on praying uttering words revealing the fact he is in a spiritual world. The isolation of Sally and other patients in the room worsen their conditions, as it only gives those thoughts of their scary world. After noticing the worsening condition, Greenberg visits several doctors while experimenting with various medications (Greenberg, 2009, pg 31.).

Father's anger and frustration lead him to a harrowing scene. Greenberg swallows Sally’s drugs to feel her experiences in the imaginary world. He gets the feeling of dizziness, as if he is in a far-away land at a great height with his legs get pinned at the edge of the precipice. Through the experience, the strange world felt by psychotic patients becomes clearer, thus, he is able to understand her daughter’s mysterious experience (Greenberg, 2009, pg. 26). At some point, he compares the literature written by a poet, Robert Powell. Such a brilliant writer on chlorpromazine failed to put a three-lettered word on a board. The same poet while on medication fails to follow the count of balls and strikes in a televised baseball game. The drugs also cause him to have the same feeling of intellectual paralysis.

The psychological need to stop the maneuvering depression remains the only best chance for the girl’s survival. Desperate father waits for the recovery of the daughter who symbolically represented his mother’s old bond. Amazingly, Sally recovers from the psychosis and reports back to school just like other ordinary children. The girl confesses of her father’s endless commitment to see her back on her feet. Greenberg covers some of the observations about the mental illness of James Joyce’s daughter, Lucia as well. Insights from other medical practitioners reveal the strange behavior that patients portray. It is evident that other members in the society must embrace to contribute to the recovery of patients.

Larry Davidson in his book Living Outside Mental Illness: Qualitative Studies of Recovery in Schizophrenia, depicts a clear image of the victim's experiences from the time of diagnosis to their recovery. Real life situations in psychology in many instances fail to capture the psychological impact of recklessness and ignorance of the patients’ special needs by practitioners and the community at large. The qualitative research, for instance, meets opposition from some psychologists, but Davidson defends his work by emphasizing on the need for the research. Schizophrenia is considered as the most stubborn psychotic disorder experienced among the illnesses of such kind. In most cases, the disorder results in death in the long-run due to the depression of the victims. However, the perception of hopelessness in the schizophrenia condition gets another view based on Davidson’s argument.

In the pre-modern days, psychiatric disorders were viewed as windows to spiritual and demonic realms. The victims of these disorders got neglected in the community and their families had to deal with the situation all alone. Such unfair treatment of the patients led to many premature deaths. They were considered as ‘beyond treatment’ and that no therapy would work due to the belief that evil spirits were involved in the situation. Psychology studies in the recent past have tremendously contributed to the better treatment of such patients. In his work, Davidson brings into attention the fact that most of the psychiatric disorders can be treated and victims recover after undergoing therapy. Schizophrenia accounts for the various strategies developed to enable victims to live outside of the mental illness. The victims of this particular disorder get into recovery through the professional study of various qualitative studies as they expand the horizons of the treatment options.

Real life situations contribute to the understanding of the trauma caused by psychotic disorders both to the victim and the community at large. In the novel Hurry Down Sunshine the protagonist is a young girl believed to have been attacked with ‘madness.' The story of Sally in the novel can get classified as a reference point for qualitative research. The following question arises: why the narrative of Sally matters when integrated with Davidson’s text? In the first chapters of the book by Davidson, a comprehensive explanation on why the qualitative study matters in the psychology branch of science is outlined. Davidson names the phenomenon as the Husserl’s phenomenology. The multi-dimensional disorder is caused by various factors depending on the victims’ environment. A clear understanding of the various factors is essential in the administration of medicine as a recovery path gets well defined. In the novel, for instance, several cases of children with mental illness are observed. In the psychiatric center where Sally gets retained for observation, a young Jewish man who constantly prays, portrays a different case from that of Sally’s. According to such observations in psychiatric research, deaths become the ultimate outcome due to the victims’ exhaustion in their thoughts in their world.

The first step in the treatment of mental disorders is to have a clear understanding of its causes (Davidson, 2003, pg. 12). Faulty parenting in some cases can be considered as a factor causing mental illnesses. The environment in which a parent brings up a child alters the perceptions of various things in the society. The nature of the background, parents’ beliefs, and cultural perceptions largely trigger psychological disorders. Noah, the young Jewish man, consistently prays, and the parents believe that it is a direct communication to God making him believe so too. Religious pressures may result in depression and finally lead to a psychotic disorder. The neurobiological model often used by the psychiatrists aims at proving the changes in the brain that alter the biological behaviors of an individual. A large portion of individuals still clings to the notion that mental disorder results from sorcery, demonic spirits, and curses. A narration from each case can be an eye-opener for the specialists.

The recovery process is defined differently by various psychiatrists. In his book, Davidson, a professor in psychology, defines recovery as the crucial moment engaged in the development of mental health services and practitioners when attending to a special patient, not with a view of illness. The genesis for recovery is an understanding of the narratives and the decision-making process to aid in recovery. Several psychological theories acknowledge recovery as the stage where individuals’ welfare becomes the priority. Redefining the personal traits and temperament can only be achieved by affirmation of the victims’ health status in terms of the neurobiological model. The narration of the different scenarios contributes significantly in analyzing the causes of mental illness. In Hurry Down Sunshine, the victim Sally, describes her experience as traumatizing where she finds herself going places but at the end ends up nowhere. Restrictions in the strange world make her feel lonely as nobody comprehends her experience. The thought of becoming a lunatic makes her confined in a lonely world since even her father has no idea of what she feels. Noah, her colleague in the quiet room in the hospital gets spiritual visions that no one else gets to grasp.

The medical observation process involves isolation of the patients. The family connection, the social ties, and freedom are cut off from the patients. The only thing that patients can do is to ride alone in the scary, lonely world full of strange thoughts. The perpetual depression results in withdrawal from the normal surrounding, and eventually, they succumb to death. In the psychiatric wards, the patients engage in dramatic acts in an effort to fight the thoughts. Such acts include fighting, trying to escape, and attempting to commit suicide if not keenly checked. The real world situation offers no solution to recovery but worsens the condition. In case of Sally, isolation yielded no fruits, and the reconnection with her family eventually led to her defeat of the disorder. In one of Davidson’s researches, he engages a patient in an interview. Surprisingly, the lady being interviewed responds well to the interrogations. The secret behind her positive response is the intense involvement in social activities. Fun activities, such as baking, work remarkably well in her progression to recovery. Social interaction should be considered in the recovery process of patients.

Motivation is a critical factor during the recovery process of mental illness patients. Motivation engages positive energy, direction, persistence, and equality. In real world situations, motivation integrates aspects of cognitive, biological, and social cohesion. A depressed youth, a middle-aged, or even senior can revive the traumatizing thoughts and experience if he or she is shown love and hope. Davidson’s book brings out a clear message on level of motivation hoping it should get indulged to victims. Treating the patients as strangers makes it highly discouraged as it makes them even more confused and lost.

Davidson’s book depicts valuable and practical advice to patients, families, clinicians, and the society at large. Each patient has their own unique way of getting past the mental illnesses only if the strength within them is established. The baseline in the book is the keen comprehension of the psychosis, and the recovery process works best when the patients get love, care, and support. The community should not be judgmental of the mental and emotional distress experienced by the psychotic victims. Unity among families of the victim is crucial in the recovery process (Davidson, 2003). Living outside mental illness captures the reality on what it takes for survival in the psychiatric world. If Sally had continued to suffer due to the loneliness and isolation, perhaps anger and frustration would consume her, ultimately making her brain collapse.

In a nutshell, the two books bring into light a first-hand account of the actual experience of the psychopaths’ world. The treatment of the condition as a mysterious disease is highly discouraged. Instead, Davidson recommends that government and global health organizations should come up with better policies that protect the rights of the psychiatric patients. A series of research on the same matter as stated above should be emphasized so as to give all patients an equal chance of survival. Clearly, the medical option does not cater fully to the needs of a patient on the recovery path. So, these two works are great examples of research conducted on psychotic disorders that can be of great help for those who seek to develop further examinations.


Davidson, L. (2003). Living outside mental illness: Qualitative studies of recovery in schizophrenia. New York: NYU Press

Greenberg, M. (2009). Hurry down sunshine. New York: Vintage Books USA.

April 19, 2023

Health Education

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