Saturday, 5 November 2011

Ignorance is bliss

Forty years ago in my other life I was written off as suffering from chronic schizophrenia. Like many people who eventually receive a mental illness diagnosis, I'd had years of abuse before entering the psychiatric system where I got more of the same. I was subdued into silence, my mind in an electro-shocked and heavily drugged torpor. Being labelled a chronic schizophrenic, especially back then, meant being given no hope of ever living a full, productive life. It meant being expected to remain on debilitating medication for life. It meant forgetting the dreams and aspirations you once had, losing your previous identity and being given a new and extremely limiting one.

But perhaps I was fortunate in that I didn't know my diagnosis. I didn't find it out until I read my case notes long after I'd jumped out of the net and after many years of being medication-free and holding down a responsible job.

I didn't know during years of happy marriage, and while sharing many precious times with close friends, that I had an incurable illness which brings about social isolation.

I didn't know when I returned to study and got a first-class degree that I'd got an irreversible brain disease leading to severe cognitive deterioration.

I didn't know I wasn't supposed to achieve all that I had done by then.

I didn't know, until I looked it up in a psychiatric textbook, that people with the rare form of schizophrenia I'd been diagnosed with, are likely to end up as vagrants (well, I suppose there's still time for that. I'd better not push my luck too much!)

I didn't know that I couldn't possibly have gone on to live the full, happy, productive life that I was actually living by then.

So I suppose my journey to 'recovery' (whatever the word 'recovery' means) had been a bit like the flight of the bumble bee in a verse I remember reading once (I'm afraid I can't acknowledge the author or seek copyright permission to reproduce it because I don't know who wrote it):

The scientists have ample proof
Proof no-one can deny
That by accepted theories well
The bumble bee can't fly.
With fat and rounded fuselage
With such small, fragile wings
He cannot even leave the ground
Bees are but crawling things.
And though these facts may all be true
And proved by people wise
The bumble bee, not knowing this
Just goes ahead - and flies.

Well, interpret that as you will.


Karen said...

Really poignant post, Jean. Sometimes ignorance is - if not exactly bliss - preferable.

Jean said...

Thanks Karen. In a way I wish I'd known soon enough to challenge the diagnosis, stop the treatment much sooner and sue the sods! But, on the other hand, it was good not knowing and enjoying the happy years of NOT thinking about it so that it couldn't hold me back.