Strictly one should not use the words because they belong to manic
depression, but schizophrenia has its own ups and downs, in and
outs, highways and byways. “In” because so many people are caring
and concerned, “out” because an individual employer may reject you
out of hand. “Up” because some of our dreams may be pretty
inspiring, “down” because the voices may be driving you to
There is a happy ending: with rest and the right medication you may
never fall ill again. I have flourished for 25 years, but for 15
years before that I was pretty grotty. The trouble was – I could
not admit it. I was OK but the world had gone mad around me. Indeed
it had by the time I had finished with it. Destitute, homeless,
wandering the streets of London: bring on the violins!
You think this is happening just to you. You alone are going from
bad to worse. How little do you know thousands all over the world
are going through the same thing at the same time. Who or what can
be to blame?
A friend of mine invented haloperidol. I’m very glad he did,
because with Priadel and Largactil it has kept me on an even keel
(with no side effects) for years. I don’t feel drugged, I feel
secure and happy and I see people twitching all around me and I
think “poor souls”. Naturally I have to do my bit. Too many
patients lie back and say “Cure me.” Getting better is a
partnership between the patient and the doctor. The patient must be
her or his own doctor when going back to the community.
But that is no reason for long faces as many a happy schizophrenic
knows. However, if you are out of action completely because of your
illness, you still have some way to go – internally and externally.
Greater realism always helps. By all means be hyper-romantic or
wallow in grief if you think it is going to get you anywhere, but
why not just have a biscuit and cheer up? With time and the right
pills you can.
Life would be poorer without the illness. Schizophrenics are the
stuff of genius. Great artists are schizophrenics. They are to be
admired, wondered at.
The old 1960s stigma is becoming unfashionable, even if it hasn’t
completely disappeared. The more the public are enlightened, the
fewer employers will throw the schizophrenic in the bin. They are
dealing with talent here. Provided schizophrenics can prove their
worth, they are home and dry and will try harder than most.
End the secrecy, the false information, the witch-hunts. Chemicals
are no more frightening than lumbago – for anyone who is not
suffering from them. Yes, there are violent nutters but don’t tar
all schizophrenics with the same brush. Yes, you can be labelled
schizophrenic for the rest of your life (I am) but that constitutes
about 0.0000001 per cent of my consciousness. To the sufferer I
would say – there is help all along the line: I should take it. To
the doctor I would say – enjoy the variety. And to the employer I
would say – he’s a human being, mate: give him a break.
Richard Jameson is a mental health service user