When the third person in my immediate family of four was diagnosed schizophrenic in 1976, I knew somebody had to do something to save my four children and grandchildren. Since I’ve never been one to wait around for someone else to do everything, or to give me “permission,” I followed in my father’s footsteps and volunteered. Besides, I was that kid in second grade who wanted to find out if the teachers knew what they were talking about during a partial solar eclipse when they said, “Don’t look without the smoked glass, it’ll make you blind.” I looked; I saw; it didn’t make me blind.
So prompted by the extremely inadequate, dehumanizing and at times life threatening experiences with most of the mental health system, the consistent failure of psychiatry to deal with, or even acknowledge the spiritual aspects of my psyche, and what was becoming an outbreak of schizophrenia in my family, I dared to confront the core of my “mental illness” ALONE and dared to challenge orthodox psychiatry. In 1976 I posed a thesis: I WANT. If I will allow it, the organism will proceed in the pursuit of the satisfaction of that want. I now have the story of an 18 year period of my life, from 1971 to 1989, 13 years of which were spent in my personal version of research of my mind. Purely an independent research, it was conducted in the ultimate natural setting, without benefit of funding, facilities or camaraderie. I started working with a clinical psychologist after my 2nd hospitalization. He kept telling me “You are the only one who can know how you feel.” He would become not a guide, but a catalyst. Though this relationship became separated by a continent in 1979 it continued to run as an undercurrent through the chronicle.
UNKNOWINGLY, WITH ONLY THE POLESTAR OF MY INSTINCT AS GUIDE AND FAITH IN AN UNKNOWN GREATER POWER , I DESCRIBE THE PROCESS BY WHICH I WAS BROUGHT TO A FULLY FUNCTIONING EMOTIONAL PSYCHIC LIFE.
At that time I didn’t know that by losing control of my conscious mind it gave something deeper than my conscious mind the opportunity to make the repairs needed.
There were to be some books, articles and movies I purposely avoided in an effort to limit contamination with the result that my work is a quite pure relation of experience making it valuable anecdotal material. I would remain totally ignorant of the developing theories about psychosis with the potential of transformation and healing until I reached the end of my journey into inner space.
STUDENTS OF C.G. JUNG AND JOSEPH CAMPBELL WILL RECOGNIZE MYTHOLOGICAL AND ARCHETYPICAL ELEMENTS THROUGHOUT MY EXPERIENCE.
Though I’d never heard of either Jung or Campbell and knew nothing of mythology or archetypes, I was able to make sense out of what seemed nonsense, i.e. delusions. This was a critical factor in enabling me to move on, not getting stuck in the quagmire of literal interpretations. My knowledge of the conceptual element in sign language for the deaf opened this door for me.
I detail some of the dehumanizing and dangerous experiences during 5 incarcerations in mental hospitals, the traumatic reaction of my biological system to the dehumanizing and potentially lethal life controlling, life negating medications, the chemical straitjackets that eradicate FEELINGS (the very thing that was trying to come back to life in me!) and keep one’s mind on the straight and narrow of divided, segmented, compartmentalized, linear, logical, socially approved experience. Although I had been subjected to extensive and consistent emotional trauma from the age of not quite four when my father left to join the army in WWII,
I NEVER FULLY EXPERIENCED MY PAIN UNTIL I WAS THROWN INTO AN ALTERED STATE. As the years and “psychotic” episodes went by, I plowed through layers and layers of pain – alone. I resolved at least one major trauma during each episode – alone. (Including the trauma of having had a child as a result of rape.) I came to recognize there were gradually lengthening periods during the “episodes,”
THE ONLY TIME OF MY EXISTENCE, THAT I WAS FREE FROM WHAT I WOULD COME TO CALL AN “UNDERCURRENT OF PAIN.”
It would not be till it was lifted permanently, sometime during 1985, that I would be able to name it. I came to see that during these altered states was the ONLY TIME I experienced differentiation of feelings. It would be early 1987 before I began to consciously recognize this as part of my “normal” experience.
Because of my recording of events, thoughts, feelings, delusions, dreams, hypnogogic visions, etc. I learned that some “delusions” turned out to be actual future events, I had pre-cognitive dreams, sometimes knew about events happening in other places and went through periods of quite intense synchronicity with the environment. I gradually became able to ACCEPT personal “psychic” phenomena without coming unhinged, a crucial step in not being locked into the myth of “mental illness.”
I SHOW THE STEP-BY-STEP DEVELOPMENT OF MY ABILITY TO FANTASIZE, starting at the intellectual level in 1976 during minimal fantasy work with my therapist to the culmination on August 20, 1985, with the dramatic, and for the first time, conscious realization of the FEELINGS of fantasy which marked the end of all psychotic episodes. I had somehow managed to make a critical leap to discover a facet of my psychic life that had been totally and effectively obliterated from my conscious mind, perhaps left existing at only a subterranean level, when my father left (I was 3 years 10 months) and was killed in WWII. (I was 5 years 8 months.) Previously, when that psychic activity broke free from all restraints into consciousness, since I had not even a vestigial memory of fantasy, I was left with no label on which to hang these thoughts and feelings but “schizophrenic,” “psychotic,” “crazy.” I had always known the WORD “fantasy” but I had to learn the MEANING. I realized a stage of my development had been interrupted in childhood and it needed to be completed before I would be able to move on, that perhaps the childhood fantasy stage could appear as “psychosis” in an adult. Through the altered states I gradually recovered totally buried FEELINGS of the close relationship I’d had with my father. Because of the untouched, unbearable traumatic pain existing deep in my psyche, I had to lose control of my conscious mind to allow that pain to have voice before those good feelings were able to surface. After reclaiming those feelings, I was able to emotionally bury him at last – in August, 1985. Within 5 years I had regained my national teacher of the deaf certification and began teaching till I retired in 2011.
IT IS ONLY AFTER IT IS FINISHED THAT THE PATTERN IS APPARENT AND SUDDENLY IT MAKES THE MOST PERFECTLY BEAUTIFUL AWE INSPIRING KIND OF SENSE.
SO IT IS WITH THIS 18 YEAR PERIOD OF MY LIFE.
And as someone said about Columbus, he didn’t know where he was going when he left. He didn’t know where he was when he got there and he didn’t know where he had been when he got back.
Without investigating the background of the individuals involved, the psychiatric profession just knew my family had hereditary “mental illness” or “schizophrenia.” Through my persistence I blew that theory into the next galaxy. By collecting data on relatives that had been diagnosed with “mental illness” I discovered varying biological etiologies including learning that people with a seizure disorder are no longer diagnosed with schizophrenia – which had happened to my mother. Then by following my journey to its culmination and clarifying the lack of a hereditary foundation for my diagnoses, I freed my descendants from a life haunted with the ominous, negative weight of a scarlet label of hereditary mental illness.