Fifteen years into my son’s schizophrenia, I stand at the place where the sand meets the water, my bare feet planted firmly. I still cannot retrieve him, but at least he hears me now. I play a kind of call-and-response game with him, like Marco Polo. He will never lose me; I won’t allow it.
I decided a long time ago that I didn’t have the energy for the tap dancing that bowing to stigma requires. This wasn’t a bold or noble move on my part. It was the need for efficiency. The stress and maintenance of this circus requires everything I’ve got. Superfluous activity and emotions are discarded to make room for problem solving.
But as I navigate the waters of our overburdened and underfunded mental health system, there is a wall I keep butting up against. It is a specific limitation which needs to be addressed: Why does the medical establishment seem to stop caring about schizophrenia once the patient is medicated and compliant?
What a mystery, this thing, mental illness. But what exactly is the critical issue? Just how horrible it is? How ugly, how dehumanizing? Or is it something more intricate, more profound than that? A thread throughout the historical narrative of this disease is that the afflicted one believes he is talking to God. Or God is talking to him.
I consider the histories of the mentally ill. So often they are artists, with a sensitivity to see beauty and connectedness in the world that the rest of us don’t recognize. Perhaps that heightened sensitivity makes them more susceptible to these illnesses. Their exquisite brains are easy targets, like little bunnies, so vulnerable.
I am thankful I am alive. I want to give back. I have learned to love me. So I have learned to love the people around me. Never ever give up. Every hard step taught me something. So it WILL do the same for you. I am grateful for my life. I have added value to the lives of people around me. SO WILL YOU.
In ancient civilizations the people who behaved like those we now label schizophrenic were regarded as visionaries. Shamans. A circle was drawn around them in which they could live, respected, within the existing society to which they weren’t suited. A circle. Nick has a red diamond on his right wrist, covering his suicide scar. A tattoo over a scar. But isn’t the white line of the scar really just a tattoo as well?