By Jordan Wilkerson
January (Jani) Schofield has imaginary friends who live in Calilini—a distant realm that only Jani can visit. Some of her friends are nice, but others are malicious; they force Jani to hit her pet dog, parents, and infant brother.
Jani screams in tantrums as she tries to fend off her Calilini friends, yet they fester within her consciousness—chomping at her brain—until she surrenders. Sometimes, they even tell her to kill her family. Jani was five years old when she confessed this to her father, Michael Schofield, author of “January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her.”
The memoir follows the perspective of Michael as he chronicles his family’s harrowing journey with Jani’s child-onset schizophrenia.
Tensions quickly boil to the surface of the Schofield household after Jani can no longer resist her friends’ demands to hurt her baby brother, Bodhi. Now more than ever, Michael is desperate to liberate Jani from the influence her friends have on her
After many interactions with questionable mental health facilities, baffled child psychologists and psychiatrists, Michael and his wife, Susan, worry that Jani may never receive the help she needs. But things change when Jani is admitted to the University of California–Los Angeles hospital.
Although “January First” is a heart-wrenching tale of a family’s journey through mental illness, it can also be recognized as a story of perseverance, dedication, and love.