Jack Bragen
Friday June 16, 2017 - 10:41:00 AM

As of April of this year, it has been 21 years since a complete psychotic episode has forced me to be hospitalized in an inpatient psychiatric ward. To give some readers a perspective, the first building of the present day Contra Costa Regional Medical Center was in an early stage of construction, and from the window of I-Ward, where I stayed, I could see the crew welding together the girders of the frame of that building. (Also, at the time, Bill Clinton was our President.)

The previous hospital, which is about 90 % demolished to make room for the current one, was called Merrithew Memorial Hospital, also known as "County." When I was in the old "I" Ward, I had the belief that I was in a museum of ancient psychiatric wards because of how primitive everything was. (Merrithew was first built during or near the time of WWII.) I also believed I was on Mars.

A judge ordered me to take medication in a "Riese Hearing," and I have been medicated since then, for the past twenty one years and two months. Schizophrenia doesn't just go away--you need to do things to keep it in remission. One of these things is to be medicated, and other parts to treatment are also essential.  

My temperament is different than it was. Previously, I'd had brain capacity, but I was not accessing it very well. Upon the psychotic episode and release, I was in the care of my then fiancé, (now married twenty years), and I was still very delusional because it was taking longer for my brain to recover from a fourth major psychotic break.  

However, the outcome of being in a comfortable environment, (my fiancé and I were cohabitating in a tiny apartment at the "Riverhouse" in Martinez), in which I was mostly free of demands, and in which I was being taken care of, was that I was able to spend a great deal of time and focus on gaining a better understanding of my mind.  

I spent many hours per day sitting in a chair in a corner, with a radio playing, massive amounts of paper, and a place to keep my refreshments, and I would look within and take notes on what I saw. 

The first realization to come about was that I'd been very delusional. Yet, I learned a lot more than that about myself. Some of this material will be subject matter for a future book.  


Being medication compliant and showing that I am cooperative with treatment professionals and others has been a substantial factor in remaining out of hospitalization and in continuing to have basic freedoms. In general, the attitude of non-combativeness toward established authority, such as police officers, property managers, and others who could affect me, has been another piece of the puzzle. This doesn't mean that I am a human doormat, and it doesn't mean that I don't stand up for my rights. There is a right way to stand up for yourself and a wrong way.  

My wife said that if I were to stop taking medication, she would move out. My wife has been an essential part of my continued stability. She has a lot of sense, and usually, when offering advice, knows what she's talking about.  

Looking deeply into my past has given me the knowledge of where I made mistakes. Although Zen Buddhism advises living in the now, the act of going back into my memories has given me a lot of information concerning the things I did wrong in my past, and of how I shouldn't repeat those mistakes.  

In my recovery, expert outpatient psychiatric care has been an essential. 

It is not impossible that I could get acutely psychotic again, which would require being re-hospitalized, or which could be fatal at my age, since psychosis is not only a threat to one's survival (due to not having judgment) it is also a huge stress on the body. Psychosis can cause a "fight or flight" response; and this could be continuous for a long period, until treatment is reintroduced--if the person survives that long.  

However, I hope not to have another psychotic episode. The knowledge that it could happen to me if I tried to stop medication, or possibly from other causes, gives me a healthy amount of caution.  

Schizoid diseases are awful. And in order to have a decent existence, the diseases must be kept under control. You do this by means of cooperating with doctors, and by taking other positive steps.  


The life of a person with mental illness could often be considered a salvage. These diseases can devour a large portion of one's productive lifespan, they can be disabling, and they can take away other things. Some of these things are the "good things" that most nondisabled Americans take for granted.  

We are forced to live with less, and it has to be good enough. Thus, it is a salvage--whether we like it or not. Life may not be giving us what we'd hoped for, however, there are still things that we can enjoy. We can do our best to live productively and to enjoy some things, and that's all we can do. I am sorry if that seems disappointing.  


Something to enjoy: "Stories to Read at the Kitchen Table at Night," a kindle e-book available on Amazon, affordably priced. Author: Jack Bragen