From the moment I met Jani and her family, I was warmly embraced. It didn't take long at all for Jani to take to me. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I was nervous going into this, as I had no idea what to expect. But from the very beginning, I fell in love with this child. Talking to Jani isn't like talking to a 7-year-old. It's like talking to a 37-year-old. She is smart, insightful, observant and has such a great sense of humor.
I met them for the first time on a playground, and the first thing she did was offer me "fried dog food." This is a game Jani plays, pretending to cook with the sand and wood chips she finds outside. She seemed like any other little girl playing on the playground, but within a few minutes, I could see signs of the schizophrenia. Jani started telling me about her rat, Wednesday; her cat, 400; and the world of Calalini, where all her hallucinations lived. I was surprised to see the amount Jani knew and could explain about her illness. She knows she has schizophrenia. She told me she could see things other people couldn't see. Anything I asked Jani about her illness she was able to explain to me in her own words. She explained that she lived somewhere between "our world" and "her world." Through experience, I also learned some of Jani's triggers...things that set her off. The first day I was there, I called her by her full name, January. This is something that apparently she doesn't like. As sweet as she was to me, that was the first time she screamed: "No! Don't call me that. I am Jani!" In an instant, she was a different child. I didn't call her January again for the rest of the week.