The Bold and the Beautiful addressed this issue of mental illness after Thomas Forrester, the grandson of Eric Forrester, played by John McCook, had a mental break. Now, John McCook’s wife, Laurette McCook (Battlestar Galactica), and their son, Jake, who has schizophrenia, have taken pen to paper to write a tome about mental health. It’s called The Cliffs of Schizophrenia.
The Cliffs of Schizophrenia
The Cliffs of Schizophrenia is a poignant tale about Jake and Laurette McCook’s unique take on his journey with schizophrenia. The mother and son duo share their intimate and, at times, painful memories in first-person alternating chapters, offering hope and insight into what it’s like to navigate this disease. Jake and Laurette sat down with Soap Hub to discuss what led them to write the book and how they hope it can help those in need.
Soap Hub: The book is amazing — very powerful, yet written in a conversational tone. How did you get the idea to write it?
Laurette: I saw that Jake was struggling finding himself. He is so artistic. He’s good at writing and art. I asked if he’d thought about doing a book. We could do it together. He sat down, and all this creativity came out of him.
Jake: We initially thought it’d be a good idea to create a book that had a larger font so it’d be easier for people to read.
Laurette: We got an office and went there every day to write. Some days, we did nothing. Others, we did a lot. I wasn’t sure Jake could handle writing about his personal private issues, but he was able to do just that.
Taking That First Step
Soap Hub: Was getting started difficult?
Jake: Initially…once we had the office and a place where we could focus on really getting into it, we got busy. We put our thoughts down. I was able to focus in a way that surprised me.
Laurette: I saw some of his issues being triggered as we got into things, but I felt as long as Jake stayed positive, it would work. If he were having a bad day, I’d say, “Forget about punctuation. Just write what’s in your head.” He wrote in a way that I thought was very Salingeresque (The Catcher in the Rye) or like Jack Kerouac (On the Road).
Soap Hub: Laurette, when did you realize Jake was facing some challenges?
Laurette McCook: One day, Jake asked if dinosaurs were real. I remember it was a shocking thing for your kid to ask when he was in his 20s. I didn’t know where to put that. I stayed really calm and said, “Oh, yes. You studied them in school.” I have to say that Jake is very blessed. He’s pretty high-functioning. One of the things that people say about schizophrenia is that people don’t know that they’re sick. Jack very much knows what he has.
Soap Hub: We all face depression, focus too much on worst-case scenarios. When does that escalate into something more severe?
Laurette McCook: That’s a good question. We talk about that quite a bit when we have conversations. Jake looked at me when the book came out, and he said he was overwhelmed. I said, “You’re not alone! That’s completely normal.” There are times when it’s okay to be overwhelmed or scared. My job as his mom has always been to let logic prevail. I ask him, “What are you feeling?” What gets hard is that there are times he believes he really doesn’t matter. He believes somebody is listening in on him. Those are times that you really talk…he’s gotten much better over the years.
Laurette McCook: A Mother’s Love
Soap Hub: Laurette, you write in the book about how when Jake was about 4 years old, you could just tell he wasn’t feeling well and brought him to the pediatrician.
Laurette: Yes. As a mom, you know your child in a way that no one else does.
Soap Hub: What do you say to parents in similar positions?
Laurette: Listen to that voice, 100%. I expound on this [in the book]. I’ve had to battle with some doctors. They’ll start to tell me what they feel, but I remind them that they see him for 30 minutes once a month. I live with him. I see him. I can tell by Jake’s hair when he gets up in the morning where he is emotionally. This speaks to people who are bipolar and who are suffering from depression, too.
I see it in his eyes. Dads can see these things, too, but I think it’s the moms who are there all the time. I see this when I volunteer [at a local hospital ER]. John’s an amazing dad…but it’s almost always the moms who are there.
Soap Hub: What else do you want people to know that you feel can help them?
Laurette McCook: Jake was diagnosed many different ways early on…Now, we’ve found a team of doctors that we feel is the best and we feel safe with. I don’t believe we [as a society] are educated enough in mental illness. I was still blown away when someone said that Jake had schizophrenia. There was no getting around it. Previously, he’d been diagnosed as having ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder], Asperger’s, autism…it was a case of eliminating them. We were finally told when Jake was in his early 30s when he was hospitalized at UCLA.
Soap Hub: Jake, you include a glossary of resources for people and samples of your artwork in the book.
Jake: For sure. We definitely put information in about organizations so that people can find help. It’s an extension of the reason we wrote the book. We want people to be able to find help.
Laurette: There’s also a website — JakeMcCook.com — where people can ask questions. The more we hear from people, the more we can structure the site.
Soap Hub: This must have been a huge undertaking, deciding to share your story, writing the book, and raising awareness.
Laurette: It’s not a popular topic. The only time you hear about schizophrenia is when something bad happens. I naively wrote on Facebook once what parents are going through [who have a child who’s schizophrenic and has acted out]. People responded by asking me, “Are you crazy? They’re evil!” I wish we were structured in this country where we could take people to hospitals where there was a [better plan] with medicating.
Soap Hub: You write about how you dealt with Jake asking you if he should live on the street.
Laurette: Yes. [After he said that] I took him down to Skid Row. A man there said, “I’ve got this.” He walked us through the scariest places and showed Jake this is what happens. He said you wouldn’t survive a night out here. Jake was silent the whole way home.
Jake: The only thing I could think is, “Why did you do that?”
Soap Hub: How are you doing now?
Jake: Good. I want to say I loved having this experience with my mom. Having something we could work on creatively together has been wonderful. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve loved every minute of it.
Laurette: Me, too.
Soap Hub: What are you working on now?
Jake: I’ve been doing editing projects. I take movies, and I’ll edit trailers [of them]. Music videos, too. I also paint. I’ve been doing some writing. I’m continuing to write about this journey that I’m on.
Soap Hub: Is there anything else you want people to know about your journey?
Laurette: Just that schizophrenia affects 24 million people worldwide.
Soap Hub: You write at one point that some people can not be cured, but everyone can be healed.
Laurette McCook: I heard that along the way. It really hit me. You can learn to live with it. Jake has a really good structure around him. When he gets into a dark area, we all rally around him. We’ve coped together. It’s everybody’s journey.
Jake: I’m so excited that the book is finally being published and that it’ll reach other people like me. That’s it.
To order your copy of The Cliffs of Schizophrenia, go to Jake McCook’s website.