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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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A Tragic Story of Paranoid Schizophrenia: Lowboy, by John Wray

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 20th 2009

 We get many questions about schizophrenia, the psychoses, hallucinations and delusions. Most of the questions relate to definitions, clarifications and where to go for help. There are also questions about why people with this illness are stigmatized. While we do the best we can in answering all of these questions, there is sometimes nothing like a really good novel to provide the best explanation of all. An excellent young writer by the name of John Wray recently published his third novel entitled, Lowboy. It is a fascinating story of an adolescent boy and his travels through the New York City Subway System. In many ways, the dark tunnels of the subways are a metaphor for the dark tunnels he is forced to traverse in his psychotic mind. I cannot think of a better way to understand this illness than to read the book.

William Heller, referring to himself as "Lowboy," is released from a mental hospital and roams through the subway system. While he "cheeked" most of his medications (cheeking is a way of pretending to take pills while hiding them in your mouth only to discard them later) he did swallow some. As he travels through the subways, the remainder of any medicines in his body gradually wear away. As this happens, his mind falls ever deeper into psychosis.

As a result of the medications wearing away, Will increasingly interprets everything he encounters through his hallucinations and delusions. To clarify, hallucinations are false sensations that cause a patient to hear, see, touch, taste, and/or smell things that are not there. Delusions are unrealistic ways of thinking that usually bond with the hallucinations to produce a fictional world that the patient is certain is real. Everything that Will experiences through his travels are increasingly translated through his psychotic mind.

In addition to Will, there are other characters in the book such as the detective who is trying to find him, his mother, former girlfriend and the various psychiatrists he saw before and during his hospitalization. There are various characters he meets during his travels through the subways who appear as distorted, cartoon versions of who they might be. The presence of the detective has to do with the concern that Will might be violent. Evidently, there were a couple of instances prior to his hospitalization where Will might have been violent. However, the author leaves it somewhat unclear as to whether this was true or not. Did he throw his girlfriend onto the train tacks or had she jumped?

In fact, it can be said that the entire book is seen through the haze of mental illness. The Psychiatrists and all the characters are somewhat vague, doubtful figures who are potentially threatening.

At times, it is difficult to know if Will is conversing with a real person, an hallucination or a real person he has distorted into something semi real and semi hallucinated. This is equally true of his conversations.

One of the heart breaking underlying themes of the novel is Will's search for his purpose on this earth. Of course, normal adolescents search for the very same thing. However, they are guided by people in the real world. Lowboy is left to his psychotic mind to find the answer to this question.

Another theme that underlies the story is the entire question as to just who is normal and who is not? There are those times where the tough New York City detective seems to hover on the verge of mental illness himself. This struggle occurs through the prism of his attempting to understand Will's mother who, as it turns out in the end, he completely misinterprets.

I do not want to say more about this book in order that all of you read this wonderful novel.

In fact, I encourage all of you to read Lowboy and submit your opinions and view points. If not, all are welcome to comment about this article, the psychoses and the issue of mental illness.

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Have been taken medicine for 10 years - - May 25th 2014

I must excuse my inglish but I am from a non inglish speaking country.

I whish to tell my story. I have been reading some discussion forums around the internett and it tend to always be very negative commets about medication against schizofrenia. I have taken medicine against it for 10 years and for the last 10 years never stoped taking my medicine. I had a very severe form of the ilness. And although i gained weight and lost my sexual drive I think is alright because I don't really miss so much other things matter in life also and the most important thing is to be healthy in your mind. After taking medicines I lost all my positive symptons but unfortunatly not all the negative. I have taken my university degree ( i also have higher education from before) and have now a very good  job. I think as cleary as I can I'm not so disorganized as I used to be even before I got the ilness. Of course my ilness is always there I think because I notice it every day I'm always a little different but when I went to doctors before they questioned if I ever had been sick because they saw me as very normal but I know all this was thank to the medicine and I told them so.  I also think it makes me a healthier person in many ways because i had som much pain fysically and mentally the period I was ill that is gone no I'm a happy person now full of love and i'm very thankfull to my medication I will never stop taking it but i hope better medication ( I beg for a revolution in the field) will come and I think this is very important because this illness can harme so many people both them who is sick and people around them then you also se that teroists that shoot a lot of people can be sick(altough schizofrenic people usally are not dangerous) so isen't it important for the world to proioritate this reaschers and find new medicines and cures? Just like they intensifies reaschers in other eareas?I think it will make more people take their medicine. Anyway it's tru I hope i will be completely recovered one day but I don't think this will happen in my lifetime.

Hope - Naz - Mar 20th 2011

I hope one day that a permanent cure is found for schizophrenia. It is a horrible desease that destroys a persons mind and soul.

I lost my girlfriend to schizophrenia. A person that i loved so dearly.

May god bless all those people with schizophrenia and bring peace to them.

Daughter of a Mother with Schizophrenia - Sister - Sep 6th 2010

My Sister has Paranoid Shizophrenia, which is now under control.

She too was like your mother and the symptoms just got worse, and her hostility towards me greater and greater. This started approximately 17 years ago, though the paranoia was mild initially, it snowballed into a full blown Psychotic episode from around 1998 - 2002. Eventually she was sectioned, and put on the right medication and is now leaving a fullfilling life and due to be married shortly.

I too found it all very hurtful and hard to understand why the attack was on myself, but also all her friends and other family members too. She had had counselling and noone realised anything was wrong, but behind the scenes i knew it was something serious, but could do little to help as the trust slowly disappeared, and i became the villain. She attempted suicide on numerous occasions and still noone helped her. By the time she was sectioned she had lost all her friends, her home everything.

It is an awful thing to have to do in order to help someone, but, sometimes we have to help people in this way. She lives with a tortured mind, it is not her fault, once she has healed, you will find your relationship gradually mends.

My heart goes out to you and your Mum, and i wish you the best.

Big Hugs

Learning to have joy in one's imfirmities - Miguel Angel Tinoco Rodriguez - Apr 23rd 2010

Mental infirmities is nothing to be ashamed of, for some it is even a blessing that shield and protects that person from a threat that no human can understand or resolve. For other it is a tool that God uses to keep a person sufficiently humble. Yet it is a label no one wants to have. I sometimes wonder if it is a disease at all or an intrusion of alien energies that cause spells that because we do not understand we cannot control. It takes so much time to resolve that it creates psychosomatic effects in the body of a person.

I put it this way. There are some people in the world today that are so special that makes me jealous. They are children of light. But there is a lot of unlighted energy that sees that light and does not comprehend it. So that unkind energy encircles that child of light inasmuch that it feeds from it. It leaves you so weak that it makes one so depressed.

Sometimes these unkind energies are so intrusive that they invade a person and because a person does not know how to react it allows to be taken hostage. For instance, when a person dies it takes with him all the vices that he or she had while in life. The problem is the wants and needs of their vices are many times intensified. Because they have a body of spirit, they cannot smoke that cigarette, or drink that cup of coffee or satisfy that sexual urge. Then, what they do is that they find a host that is either clean or has similar appetites and they invades them, so they can at least pretend that they are doing the same things that they did when they are alive. When you refuse then they get mad and they attack any way they can unti they overpower the person.

One has to understand that because we still have a body of flesh and bones that we are more powerful than them and have to make an effort to resist. One way to do help you is to mask the problem with psychotropic medications and another one is to take the bull by the horns and rebuke it. Beomce informed also.

One thing that I know helps is to command those energies, spirits or devils to depart in the name of Jesus Christ. Many people do this and it does not work, but it is because they only do it once. One should try at least three times with firm resolve and determination. Three times. After that they will leave, they do not have any choice because they are doing that is illegal. Now, this is not all. They will come back with reinforcement’s worst than them. There is a shield. One can begin to ask God with fervent prayer and supplication to keep those forces away and to send help. God will not refuse, but one needs to be constant even when the night seems so dark remembering that when the night is the darkest, the morning is even closer. relief or succor will come.

Many people think that they are evil or that they have this odd behavior towards one thing or the other. However most of it does not come from one self but from an exterior source. I know about these things because I have experienced them. Many people are so contaminated that they think there is no hope. But there is. A way has been provided for them to escape. Prayer and supplication.

I was taken once against my will to a psychiatric hospital because I told my friends that I had herd the voice of God, nonetheless, before that could happen I also told them that I had a long conversation with the devil. They told me that I was crazy and things got complicated. The deil truly came and wanted told to do a work for him. It is written somewhere in one of my blogs.

I was at the hospital for six days and I had no clue why I was there. I saw lots of ill people suffering from many odd mental problems. Some had anger management problems and hit themselves in the wall, others were depressed and others had other manic symptoms. I am a priest, I wanted to help them but I did not know how. I had never dealt with sick people before. And I guess God saw it appropriated to teach me by sending me to the psychiatric hospital. So I begun to pray and ask God that I wanted to know what these people were going through. I did not feel sick at all. In fact for me if felt like being in a wedding party that at first I did not want to attend. I wa seven taken there in a limousine that had red and blue lights on top. And the driver was a fine man and had a weapon. So I felt very secure. In other words, in the midst of crisis I saw an opportunity to serve and glorify the name of God.

But then. God told me to touch the people wiht infirmities and that their infirmities will be instantly transferred to me. I did it and I never felt so miserable in my life. The dreams I had were terrible beyond measure. I was not scared but I had s heightened sense of things that grabbed me. It all made me feel dirty. I never allowed them at the hospital to medicate me, yet I never ceased to pray to be delivered. I put all my trust in Jesus Christ and in him alone. It came to pass that all the people left there before me and I ended up being diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dementia and I do not know what else.

Because the impressions were so great and I did not understand what was going on. I had to take treatment plan or else I would lose my freedom. Now I found a way to be in control and not let those influences or spells overpower me. There is no violence in me but my truht seemed threatening even to my family. And when I go to church or meetings and see people sick I just touch them and take their evil spirits and infirmities with me. And what I do is that I preach to them, the spirits that get attached to me until they believe or leave me alone. They fear me when I get on my knews and begin praying. I retribute the torment that they cause me by praying with all the strengh of my soul. They cannot stand it and they hate it. This is how I can help people that cannot help themselves.

This is how Jesus Christ took our sins and infirmities when he lived upon the earth. By knowing how sick and afflicted people felt he was able to assist them. He showed me what to do and how to command and many more things that priests do that I cannot tell you now. But up to this day, some people look at me with derision, because I tell the truth as it is. I sometimes let my beard grow like the ancient prophets, but they also know that there is some power that they cannot understand that helps me stay afloat.

After all I am Michael the Archangel, the chief of all angels and the commander of nations. Laugh a little would you. There is no point in being Crazy if you cannot make people laugh.

Originally. When I wrote this article I was just answering a question and I was under the direct inspiration of God, not knowing beforehand that I was reaffirming the Holy Scriptures. Hereafter are some references that may shed some light to all that I have written hoping that it ma also reaffirm someone’s faith in the Christ and that I have said the truth.

It is Written:

“For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

(New Testament 2 Corinthians 12:6 - 10)

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

(Book of Mormon Alma 7:11 - 12)

Glory be to God, for he shows to he children of men that he is the same yesterday today and forever, an unchangeable being filled with mercy toward all men and especially those that tremble at his power. If we trust in him, he will not only help us but run to succor us in times of peril. Our saviour Jesus Christ showed us the way and the prophets the path to follow.

I say all these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

Miguel Angel Tinoco Rodriguez

seeking understanding: paranoid schizophrenic mother - - Jan 17th 2010

I will definitely look into this book.  My mother is paranoid schizophrenic - she is unmedicated and is deeply in denial about her condition.  I've had to cope for years with her seemingly self-made "emergencies".  If I make the mistake of trying to help my mom, at her request or even her pleading, anything I do or say gets twisted into unrecognizable stories by my mom.  Invariably, anyone who is close to my mom is eventually labeled by her as someone who is trying to hurt her and she ends up spreading malicious lies and hurtful stories about them - she seems to do this to everyone.  It's heart-wrenching, to say the least and I really don't know how to cope with it anymore.

My mom now only calls to tell me that she doesn't want to talk with me and wrote me a long, hurtful letter just now.  It's hard to not take it personally - especially when I feel under attack and it's hard to understand that my mom really believes that all these stories and times when she has reinvented history are true - in her mind.  Nothing I can say or do - no amount of physical evidence - can prove to her that she's wrong.  Even when other people are there or are witness to her behavior - she will still entirely rewrite history to make herself out to be some tragic hero and everyone else as horrible villains.  She seems to target me for this especially.  The more I protest at her mistreatment of me - the more she makes up wild stories about how I'm trying to hurt her and embellishes the past even further.  It wouldn't be so bad if she didn't go out of her way to cram her twisted version of reality down my throat.  It gets worse that her stories grow more and more distorted and twisted with the retelling, with her getting increasingly more agitated and angry in the process.  On one hand, she reaches out and asks for help - or sometimes even pleads for help - and on the other hand, she doesn't trust anyone with her physical address, any information about her, where she is working - and reacts violently and with deep suspicion if anyone asks her any information about her life whatsoever.  She asks for help - and then she slaps away the hand that could offer her help, while insulting everyone and treating everyone as if they're all horrible people.  

At this point, my relationship with my mom has deteriorated to the point where I really wonder if she's going to end up deciding never to speak with me again... and while that bothers me, because I worry about my mom's coping skills and what happens when/if she really gets in trouble (because no one will know to call me when that does happen) - I have to admit that the more my mom distances herself from me, the better off I am really, because I would no longer be subject to her chaos, anger and hostilities.  It also bothers me though - because I feel so helpless and feel there is nothing at all I can do about the situation - either one way or another.  I think reading a book about what it is like from the point of view of the person suffering from this horrible disease might help me to put things in perspective - at least a little bit.

Lowboy - Artist and musician - Nov 30th 2009

It was a wonderful book and truly insightful. All med and psych students should read it, and of course others too (I'm not in the medical world).

Having read several autobiographies by people who've got schizophrenia, it was good to read from another perspective, and this book is as engaging as any thriller. I couldn't put it down and read it from cover to cover in about 3 days.

I think apart from anything else, it really helps us undertand better what it's like for someone in psychosis.

The ending was rather an enigma, and left me feeling stupid that I wasn't clever enough to know what happened.

Recommend LOWBOY to everyone. Congratulations to the author who has my complete admiration and respect.

AM I in a relase state wiht these thoughts. - Miguel Tinoco - Jul 23rd 2009

Zion, July, 22nd 2009

I am a Jew and my eyes were opened and for the past two years I have been fighting in day light and in the shadows the war on globalist oppression and against civil liberties armed to the teeth with all my intellectual warfare.

I wrote to senators, I wrote to chiefs of state and others to complain for not defending our rights and for betraying our constitutions by selling us to socialist and/or communistic interests of the darkest kinds. I was ignored and I was also persecuted, not so by my enemies, but by those who supposedly were my friends. This was for protesting and declaring the truth and exposing corruption in a supposedly infallible religious organization that may have globalist and/or socialist ties.

To make the story short, I ended in a psychiatric unit of a hospital and subsequently went to jail for crimes I did no commit. I have never been convicted of any crime. However, everybody under heaven and perhaps some that are in heaven turned their backs on me including my family. I was fighting alone and as I waged war. As a result, I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and other serious mental ills altogether. Because of these labels it is impossible for me to regain gainful employment and the respect and honor I once had. I just want to communicate to you all that the conspiracy is not a theory but a conspiracy fact. I am a living proof of it all. I experienced many ills in the flesh, mind and spirit as a result of these vicissitudes. The bartering and trampling of our freedom and liberties is a well known and established fact since 1913s and earlier.

The more you protest the more the conspirators ignore or fire at you. When you are found without utilities in your house for many months in the winter time or in the summer time, if is that you have not lost it all. And when you have to beg for food for you and your family, it is when you realize that you are a victim, not of mischief or misfortune, but of a world wide campaign against good values and self government. This was envisioned by Lucifer even since the beginning or perhaps before the foundation of the world. It is at that juncture in time when all is left is breath of life is that you have to choose whether to sacrifice what is left of you for a bit of security or to fight to the end for peace and freedom, even until death if necessary. It is at that juncture that you have to decide to take justice into your own hands, so help you God. That very thing I did and I will continue to do until I prevail or I am prevailed against. It has been prophesied that I and y associates will prevail. But remember that you first fight with your head, then with your heart; and then with everything else you have. Therefore I suggest you search your heart first to discover if you have what it takes to fight, for not all were meant to be warriors.  There are many fronts to fight any given battle. Oh, I have chosen the harshness of all for the greatest heavenly glory.

Attentively your servant

Michael the Archangel. 777

why there is no more hope - Bebzy - May 20th 2009

Yes the book sounds very interesting I'll be looking at getting it to read.  One of the reasons is my brother has been torchured with horrible illness for more than 10 years now. I am always searching for more information.

Disease - Rajesh Yedida - Mar 30th 2009

Dear Doctor,

Thanks for the clarification. I have mistaken it. So what you are talking about is a disease. Why do people get this disease? Is that due to some imbalance?

Thanks and Regards

Rajesh Yedida

crazy people - - Mar 28th 2009

how do you cope being married to a  phyco case

Seeking - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Mar 28th 2009

Dear Rajesh,

One thing I need to point out: This is not the story of someone who went seeking his purpose on earth and seemed wierd to others. This is the story of a young man with a brain disease called Paranoid Schizophrenia. Regardless of what other cultures may have called this in the past and regardless of how they may have treated these individuals, these are people with a very serious disease. There is nothing philosophical about this. It is estimated that 1 Percent of the world's population suffers from schizophrenia. To add to their tragedy, one percent of that one percent commit suicide. This is a tormenting and tortuous disease and not a quest for truth.

Dr. Schwartz

Purpose on Earth - Rajeswh Yedida - Mar 27th 2009

If one goes in search of his purpose on earth, he naturally seems weird to normal people.  However that period doesn't long last. After a while either they become normal or they go ahed in their path of knowing the self. If they find some peers they feel good. In India there are many such people.


Rajesh Yedida

Article - - Mar 23rd 2009

The article was very interesting and made me very curious about the book.  I may purchase it.  The only problem with the article are the typographical errors; there are several.  But again, the article was very interesting.

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