Going mad is not the end of the story. I can personally vouch for
the fact. For 15 years I bounced between the community and mental
institutions in a state of considerable mental disorder, but for
the past 26 years I have enjoyed pretty well perfect health. There
is life after lunacy.
The stigma towards mental health problems is not nearly as bad as
it was in the 1960s. Then there was positive hostility: certainly
no acceptance. Now there is caring and sharing of our problems and
even a desire to learn more. The public is much more aware of the
situation and the scientists have gone to town in their discovery
of new pain-relieving mental medication. I have been on the same
drugs (in ever-decreasing doses) for 30 years: lithium, largactil,
modecate and haloperidol. I don’t feel drugged, but I know they are
doing me good. It is rather like putting on a suit every day – you
feel more decent.
My hallucinations as a schizophrenic/hypomanic were staggering.
Naturally I landed up in hospital. Can I persuade you that I was
enjoying myself? I really was. Possibly I was happier than I had
ever been before or since. But that does not save you from the
psychiatrist’s scrutiny. I was observed like a fly on flypaper for
15 years. Of course I suffered but nine times I wrenched myself out
of hospital and back into society, where I found a job and did it.
Finding a job is not so easy if you are labelled a schizophrenic.
You must be economical with the truth, not telling an outright lie
but not volunteering a whole lot of information that could
jeopardise your application. You can do the job and that is all
Most employers used to recoil at the word “schizophrenic”, not
realising it is no worse than any other chemical disorder that can
be cured chemically. After meeting such a reaction in numerous job
interviews, I was near despair. Then I tried a furniture store in
Acton, London. “Come on in!” they said. “We’re all barmy here.” I
stayed at the firm for three happy years and only left when it went
You have to start somewhere. When you finally launch yourself
there, the sweet breath of freedom and sanity should fill your
lungs: in fact you should feel on top of the world. And for the
past three years I have been in retirement – though I am busier now
than ever before in my life: writing, acting, broadcasting,
Schizophrenia is a curse. But there is medication, rest and tender
loving care. And it works. Thank heavens for a better attitude from
the world towards these extraordinary disorders, simply by other
people taking a more enlightened interest.
Many will be encouraged to know that you can live for years after
“incurable” schizophrenia and never be bothered by the ghosts
again. The life that I enjoy is full, rich and satisfying. So
madness is not the final, disgraceful end. A sympathetic public
will make sure that the sufferer, quite cured, is welcome back into
Richard Jameson is a writer and performer.