ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Oasis of Sanity

By Jack Bragen
Thursday May 23, 2013 - 07:40:00 AM

I am sitting at home after an uneventful outing of doing errands; I have a deep peacefulness as I look at the overcast light filter in through the blinds in my living room, and as I sit in my chair facing my computer. Things seem bright and cheerful, safe and sane, peaceful and comfortable. It has not always been this way. It has been literally decades that I haven't felt safe like this. And yet, the externals in my life are not so different. Sure, at times there have been crises that needed to be dealt with, but there were also uneventful times in which I should have felt at peace, and didn't. 

Schizophrenia is apparently a disease that robs a person of their consciousness. This can take the form of not being connected to one's environment, to one's emotions, and to one's body. I have long desired the day when I would again feel affect coming from my environment, which would tell me that I am connected. 

Feeling present is something most people probably couldn't conceive of not feeling. It is more valuable than money. So is freedom from living in fear. It doesn't matter if one's fears are realistic or if they are from imagined threats, fear is fear. When fear goes away, it is like leaving behind a high school full of bullying students or leaving a horrible job situation. 

When something is wrong with one's brain, it affects a person's experience of life. One's experience of surroundings, one's emotions, perceptions, sensations, and the whole of one's existence are defined by processes in the brain. If your brain isn't working, nothing is. That's one reason why schizophrenia, along with Alzheimer's and other physical diseases of the brain, is so very devastating. 

With treatment, someone with schizophrenia might recover a lot of brain function. But they will never get to the point of total normal, a state which most non-afflicted people believe they can always count on. 

People's experience of living in the US is like an oasis of sanity, fairness and comfort. In fact, peace and justice seem to exist only in the smallest fragments of human times and places. What we consider normal is an exceptionally fortunate way of living, which is rarely duplicated if you look at the human past, at other countries, and likely at our future. Schizophrenia ushers in a level of hardship which is comparable to the normal level of suffering of the human species. 

People with schizophrenia are treated unfairly in society, are targets of abuse, and are betrayed by our own brains. This level of suffering over time can create numbness. Many people with schizophrenia never reach a good level of clarity or of happiness. 

Adapting to mental illness can include either accepting or ignoring being wronged. In some instances, we might be in a position to right the wrongs that are put against us, while in other instances, we don't have that option. We must sometimes accept the injustices perpetrated by the people around us, and with the unfair fate that has given us a brain condition. 

We must obtain the little bits of happiness wherever we can, and this can include a relationship, going to a movie, or something as simple as a cup of tea.