“The author of We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders, a book of poems about living with schizophrenia (http://www.cavankerrypress.org ) Pamela Spiro Wagner graduated magna cum laude from Brown University in 1975 and attended medical school for one



year, despite  a five month hospitalization her freshman year of college and another the following year. After leaving med school, she spent at least twelve years of her adult life in psychiatric units and hospitals. Despite her illness, she won many awards for her writing, including First Place in the 2001/2 international poetry competition sponsored by the BBC World Service and two Connecticut State Mental Health Media awards “for professional journalists” for articles written for the Hartford Courant. In 2005, she co-authored, with her twin sister, a psychiatrist, Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and their Journey through Schizophrenia (St Martin’s Press, 2005), a much acclaimed memoir about her years of illness, which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was featured in Readers Digest and People Magazine among other places. The book won the national NAMI Outstanding Literature Award and was a finalist for the Connecticut Book Award.  Wagner’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, LA Weekly and Tikkun among other places. She has written WAGblog  since 2003, currently at http://pamelaspirowagner.com. Also an artist, her work can be seen on various posts at this page until she re-establishes another art website. Two of her colored pencil pieces recently appeared in the first edition (Jan 2014) of COLLECTIVE Dream Arts Magazine. Wagner was born in “in the army” in Tacoma, Washington. She lived almost all of her life in Connecticut but recently relocated to Vermont.”

This blog, a continuation of the old Wagblog (6 years of writing, lost in a major crash that eliminated it temporarily) from the once premiere website http://www.schizophrenia.com, is intended to be about living with schizophrenia, as well as about poetry and art. It may take tours through Vision Therapy, temporal lobe epilepsy and narcolepsy, Global Warming and just about anything else that interests me as well! Hope you will come along for the ride. Any and all comments are welcomed

Please know that given time constraints in my life I cannot always respond to comments, but I truly appreciate all  of them and “likes” and the implicit evidence that someone somewhere is actually reading this thing!

3/2014 added note:  My newly edited book of poems, Learning to See in Three Dimensions, is seeking a publisher…


46 thoughts on “About”

  1. Holy cow, Carley…I am the one to thank you…I only just now saw this and it was quite by accident. I cannot tell you what a shot in the arm your comment is, but as you cannot know, I have not been able to speak for the last 16 days or more. And I do not know, as I never do, how long this situation will continue. I have written all my life and as you know if you read my blog, I now also do art, but your lovely comment is one of the most delightful I have ever gotten. I cannot thank you enough. But I can thank you again, as you did me, thank you, thank you , thank YOU!


  2. Hello, Mrs. Wagner! I certainly hope this comment finds you in good health, and I also hope you have the time to read (and hopefully respond!) if you are continuing use of this site.

    My name is Carley, and I live in Texas as a sophomore in high school. At my school, we compete in what’s called the NFL-National Forensics League (not to be confused with football, haha!). This is a speech and debate tournament series. I’ve been competing in this for a long while. My main events are Dramatic Interpretation (A 10-minute dramatic monologue), Poetry reading, Prose reading, and Duet/Duo acting. This year, I have used your story, “We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders” as my poetry piece (of course, giving you all the credit).
    On 3/11/17, I went on stage in front of the NFL-competing schools across the entire state of Texas to accept an award for the performance. I accepted 4th place-although it is not as glamorous as 1st, I am the first student in my school history to become a state finalist.
    Now, this all being said, I don’t intend to come across as cocky, boastful, conceited and proud. Instead, I desperately want to humbly thank you-with all of my heart. I have a desire to become a psychologist for children, adolescents and maybe young adults, which began last year. As my father had schizophrenia, I developed an interest in the research and treatment of all mental disorders.
    My piece last year was “The Quiet Room” by Amanda Bennett and Lori Schiller, as a dramatic interpretation. When the next summer began, I hoped to find more schizophrenic pieces-not because I performed them well (because, in all honesty, I did not), but because I began fasinated with the science.
    In the most non-creepy/stalkerlike way possible, Mrs. Wagner, your story intrigued me.
    I began reading your story for a piece, but soon read it simply because of the eloquence and description you write with. Your penmanship and flawless choices of words did indeed leave me breathless, so much so that I had to place the book down and think for a while. Your writing has given me encouragement to write poetry, music, and stories.
    Never, ever, forget how great of an impact you have-I suppose, this is the moral of the story. I cannot thank you enough for investing so much time, emotions, and life into your story. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


  3. Karen your story was almost too painful to read, esp as i was injected with Haldol by force just yesterday in a Vermont ER…i will write more to you when incan. use my artwork and feel more than welcome to it!



  4. Hi Pamela,
    I found your site when I was looking for artwork to illustrate Haldol. Your Haldol piece is acutely descriptive. I mean both your artwork and your writing.

    I used your Haldol artwork at the top of a page I just completed. http://www.health-boundaries.com/haldol/

    Please take a look. If you don’t want me to use your artwork, I will remove it. Please will you let me know? I give you credit at the bottom of what I wrote before reproducing my bankruptcy court filing.

    Karen Kline


  5. Mandy, we know about survival in our own ways…Trust me. You survived PLENTY, judging from the cover of your memoir…I can’t wait to read it. Though i know it will be painful. I hope your book is successful in all the ways that you need it to be successful. Best wishes, Pam

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pam, I just saw Divided Minds on Amazon–I’m going to order it. What an amazing story you have to tell. I’m sorry we met the way we did, over the loss of a friend, and I feel so humbled, me, trying to help you, with the very little I understand about surviving. In my mind, you are the survivor. I will follow your blog and hope to know you better, read your other works and see your art.


  7. Pam, I am so impressed with your courage to share your journey with mental illness. The world needs the dose of reality that comes from hearing about the suffering, the trials and the triumphs that mental illness brings to our lives. I’m looking forward to spending more time here. And what a wonderful outlet you’ve found in your artwork!


  8. I love that you speak your mind. And I will definitely speak mine in return about the “critical response” you posted on my blog…it is hard to be too offended by someone who refers to my writing as “spellbinding.” I welcome the dialogue and debate, always, and as far as the “toxic sludge” comment, I’m very sorry you feel that way about yourself.


  9. Wow, well, I just wrote a critical response to one of your posts, so I hope I haven’t completely tarnished my “reputation” now…On the other hand, I speak my mind, and if I said anything that you disagree with, you would certainly be right to speak yours in reply! Thank you for your comments. I cannot imagine why anyone would feel an honor to have me anywhere near them though. That’s like wanting Toxic sludge at the dinner table.


  10. I woke up this morning to a message in my inbox saying “Pamela Spiro Wagner liked your post.” I read your book “Divided Minds” years ago, when I first started thinking about writing the book which is now being written through my blog (with my co-author, Robin). Your book was the closest thing I could find in terms a model for the idea Robin and I had for our book. I am honored to have your name show up on our blog! Will be reading more of yours. So glad you are here in the blog Universe!


  11. Hello,

    I just wanted to let you know how pleased I am to have found your blog! I loved the book you wrote with your sister, and your art and poetry is simply incredible. I was so saddened to read that you were recently subject to restraint and seclusion. Unfortunately, some of the people with the worst views of people who have a mental illness are those who work in the mental health field. I don’t know if you’ve read the book “The Center Cannot Hold” by Elyn Saks, but it is her memoir and she discusses her experiences with restraints. She also notes that she was never put in restraints while living in England, and that overall, restraints are very rarely used in England. I wonder why there is such a big difference?

    Anyway, just wanted to say hi and thank you for your art and writing!


  12. Hi brenda,

    I dunno what happened with your email, but i have been writing in my blog regularly or certainly often enough so you ought to have heard from it frequently. If you don’t believe me, check the recent postings. I havent skipped many months except when i was hospitalized for an entire month. Good to see you back here, however, and i hope you enjoy catching up. Sorry to hear about your work woes….i hope you dont mind picking up those many different jobs rather than having one big career. I myself would have rather have done it your way. But i think i might be unusual…at least we have universal health care coming in, so you ought to be eligible for some coverage soon if not at this very instant. Good luck and thanks fr writing.


    Pamela Spiro Wagner: Artist, poet, author of Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and their Journey through Schizophrenia (St Martins Press, 2005) and We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders (CavanKerry Press, 2009). Available for readings, speaking on mental health issues, and sales/donations of her art. Please contact for details by email or skype phone: 860-263-0280 Check out http://pamelaspirowagner.com for links to Wagner’s art and poetry. Her art site for now is https://pamwagg.see.me


  13. Hello Pam – It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen an entry in your blog in my emails. I see you are being check for possible eye surgery? I had cataract surgery in both eyes about two years ago – I am 59 now, and the surgeon said I was kind of young to be having this surgery, but my eyesight sure is better now. The weird thing is, when I had the first eye done, the surgeon asked me what my preference was – not knowing exactly what he meant (I have to keep relearning to ask doctors lots of questions and/or have someone with me who will do that for me — I have ADD and am not always in sync with what’s going on at the moment) — well, I said I’d like to be able to get around without wearing glasses. After the first surgery, it turns out I could walk and drive without glasses BUT I couldn’t read a book or the computer screen or the label on a food can with that eye! Turns out I was, basically, far-sighted in that eye. So, I asked the surgeon if it was possible to give my second eye a different focal distance – turns out, people do that. So, I read with my left eye, and drive with my right eye. At first, though, it took my brain several minutes every morning to coordinate the two eyes — otherwise, I had double vision and vertigo! The only concern I have these days is that I have developed a lot of “floaters” in both eyes – if they get annoying I rub my eyes or blink hard a few times. I should go to the eye doctor and find out if this means anything, but I no longer have any insurance. I was lucky that when I had that surgery, I still had a full-time job with benefits. I am now working freelance and everything is out of pocket. I am exploring the possibility that I might be eligible for medicaid, at this time, since I don’t make a whole lotta money these days. I am the editor for an online news site called HTNP.com but it is not well managed by the owner and my pay has successively dropped from $600 a week to $200 a week and as such, I told him he only gets 20 hrs a week of my time, and the site has suffered as a result. I am supposed to post daily news for 8 towns – it’s more like weekly for most of them, since I need to focus on 4 of the towns that actually advertise with us. We were around almost four years before Patch.com came on the scene and could have been making a ton of money, but my employer spends 90 percent of his time doing stuff with the Shriners. While the Shriners are a great charitable group, I don’t think part of their credo is to stiff people when it comes to paying them or to neglect your own business. He’s a terrible business person. I wish I had to funds to buy the business away from him and run it the right way! I also make ends meet by freelancing for The Reminder (which is where I worked when I wrote about your reading and art exhibit at the Otis Library in Norwich, some years back), and substitute teaching, and doing other odds-and-ends type jobs such as taking minutes for a local committee building senior housing. I have been in a committed relationship for about four years now – we live in Willimantic – and am still adjusting to not being a bachelorette! I also chair a local neighborhood action group, am on the founding board of a pilot program called the Hour Exchange – something like bartering, but there’s no money or goods exchanged, just time-dollars, and I am the founder of a community garden, which since 2008 has donated hundreds of pounds of fresh veggies to the local soup kitchen AND put good food on my table. My goal this summer is to learn how to can! So, I hope you will be updating your blog from time-to-time so we can keep in touch. I hope your other readers don’t mind this long update from me! — Brenda Sullivan


  14. I truly did get a good LOL from your response to me. GOod way to start the morning. Thanks for the laugh and the award, Amy. I would write more but I need to go off to get evaluated for eye surgery, so WML and TTFN.


    Pamela Spiro Wagner. Artist, poet, author of DIVIDED MINDS: Twin Sisters and their Journey through Schizophrenia (St Martins Press, 2005) and WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS (CavanKerry Press, 2009). Available for readings, speaking on mental health issues and others, also art sales/donations. http://pamelaspirowagner.com and https://pamwagg.see.me Please contact for details by email or skype phone: 860-263-0280


  15. Tu capisci! New word, but yes, I get it! Having known a couple of EMTs I can honestly say that they had probably seen much worse and situations that were not “messy” but rather just plain disgusting (roach infestations, etc.) But I can relate a bit- my parents FREAKED when they visited me at college and saw the state of what I considered a “clean” room… LOL
    I only had a couple of roommates- and they were both quite understanding. I kept my random collections of stuff on my half of the room and didn’t grow mold and didn’t gross them out by bringing in, shall we say, my “private life”? that other girls did (one found a rather unfortunate stain on her futon… arg..) It did lead to some interesting questions, like, “why do you keep pottery shards?” which were generally answered in a few days when they saw some new art project sprawled out on the floor (note: don’t play with pottery shards without gloves! ended up heading over to the health center for a tetnus booster…)
    I call it frugal too. Most people start to get it when it saves THEM money too 🙂


  16. Yeah, I know all about that. Opinions differ on whether my “recycling” reaches the level of hoarding or not. Sometimes when the disarray gets bad it can look like it, but I remind people (I live alone so no one gets on my case too often) that I’m 1) an artist and 2) I live in a very small space…If I had a larger space things wouldn’t look so bad. Heh Heh. But in truth, that is the truth. Here there is a place for everything, yes, but how can I work when everything is put away??? I ask you, that is impossible, isn’t it? No one is creative with everything neatly packed away out of sight! OTOH, if you have read my About page, you know about some of my other problems, so you can imagine what the police and EMTS have thought about me, when they have been summoned and found the place in a state of utter chaos…It hasn’t gone well for me at those times, and it might well have gone better had the place and myself been neat as a Spic and Span commercial (Hmmm, it has been a long time since I’ve seen TV cleanser commenrcials but i trust you get my drift!). That is the one time I have wished I could have kept the place spartan and tidy. If only then…But back to the hoarding business…There are so many things people have thrown away on me that I have in fact sorely regretted NOT having later, because I knew exactly what I would later want it for, and did not have it when the time came. Tu capisci? (Whoops, that’s italian for, You get that?) Cheap? I call it frugal and NO CARBON…try that one on them!


  17. Hehe- there is some debate among family and friends over whether or not I am in fact hoarding, or just crafty. I prefer the latter, but hey, I guess people are just different? Most of it comes from being cheap and worried about a lack of recycling in my area.


  18. Thank you Amy. I too LOVED your blog and will happily follow your as well. Loved the craft and saving posts particular.Exciting to see someone on that wavelength…green but not too hoardy…


  19. How have I not discovered your blog before???? I love this, your perseverance, and your honesty! Will be a happy new follower 😀


  20. Thank you, Julie, for your very kind words about the book. I hope that a later book will have a happier conclusion than the first one did. Thank you again for writing to let me know how you responded to it. I appreciate more than I can say every time someone takes the time to write and tell me how they feel upon reading it.


  21. Pam, I just finished reading your incredible book. You are inspiring and an incredible talent. I love the passion you express through your many creative outlets. I want to thank, both you, and your sister for the incredible insight, candor and courage you demonstrated by sharing your experiences.

    Julie A. Daignault


  22. Hi Jacqui,

    The artspace collage is the only one…and so it is the finished version. I thought the garden version was not my real vision for the thing, frankly. And I preferred the larger path out in the final version, with the smaller garden, less “floribundant” but still flower studded. I will post a photo of the final version tonight so others can see what you saw today. Thanks for attending and for coming to see Wagblog!


  23. Just started reading your blog – will continue (for a long time it would appear!) You are brave to put yourself out there so much in the open and deserve much praise for helping others.
    Regarding your collage I saw today at Artspace on your home page it appears there are several versions – the one below the colored pencil rendering seems that a lot has been resolved for you as it shows a beautiful tree in the landscape, and the path goes past many flowers – nice!
    I would like to hear you giving a reading sometime. Sincerely, Jacqui


  24. Hi Pam. I’m fascinated by your work, and particularly your mention of Eve Laplante’s book Seized. I’m researching the field of epileptic art, and what you have written about draws many parralells to this. Hope to talk with you some time. Best wishes,



  25. Pam I loved your poems first (the few i found) and now your artwork too, I love your candidness.My daughter was diagnosed with SZ this year, it started an uncharted journey for both of us. Imagine my joyful surprise to find someone who knows about it and is living large.U give so much hope on this blog of yours just sharing yourself.Thanks,


  26. You have a wonderful page here! There is so much wonderful information and inspiration! Thank you for sharing!!!
    If you don’t mind, I would like to add you on my blog roll.




  27. hello, i am just a regular 16yr old but i have just read Divided Minds and i am absolutely in love with it! u are an inspiration and i love your work :]


  28. Hmmmm… I just saw that they edited a paragraph that changed my intent and I will speak to them about it. I wrote:
    Wagner did not shy away from talking about the violence of some of her experiences in hospitals at the hands of those whose main concern was to manage her behavior – with drugs, restraints, isolation and worse.

    They changed it to:
    Wagner did not shy away from talking about the violence of some of her experiences in hospitals at the hands of those trying to help her – with drugs, restraints or isolation.

    I am surprised they did that.


  29. Hi Pam
    I just took at look at the Reminder story I wrote, it is now online at Remindernews.com and the URL is


    I was disappointed that (1) they cropped the heck out of the photo of you and your parents but mostly your wonderful sculpture (!) and (2) the photo of two other sculptures is in black and white – so much detail doesn’t come through – all those wonderful colors and the way they glow.

    (My boyfriend likes to tease me – in an affectionate way – about my ADD and attraction to bright colors. He kind of mimics me and the way I will suddenly interrupt myself mid-sentence or turn my head when driving. He says, “Oh! shiney!”)

    I hope you like the story. There was so much more I would have liked to include but had to keep it to length and leave room for at least one photo.

    I also wanted to share something with you that might tickle your funny bone – I am reading a novel called “Missing” by Karin Alvtegen (who is considered Sweden’s “Queen of Crime”) and the book is published under the imprint of Felony & Mayhem Press (!) Some of the other novels are “The Bad News Bible,” “Because of the Cats,” and “The Ottoman Cage.” (www.FelonyAndMayhem.com)


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