I had become One in a Hundred - a teenage psychiatric patient.
I was told I must take anti-psychotic drugs for the rest of my life. It is conceivable that had I accepted this literally, I may not have experienced further shifts in consciousness. It is also conceivable, perhaps inevitable, that had this been the case, I would not and could not, have integrated my experiences and come to a subsequent understanding and resolution; consequently my life would have been impoverished. There was a subtle and systematic attempt to condition me so that I would view myself as ill and diseased and as experiencing delusional and hallucinatory states - cancer of the mind.
During one assessment session I underwent, I recall a clinician stating:
‘You are sick… do you know that?’
On replying: ‘No I am not’ I was informed my answer clearly indicated that I was, and that until I had accepted this I would remain unwell. By saying I was not sick I was deemed to be insane, had I agreed the outcome would inevitably and inescapably been the same… Catch 22.
Sadly I began to see myself as deranged. In 1984 I made the decision to extricate myself from psychiatric interference. I felt my identity had been sabotaged by diagnosis and endeavoured to reclaim ownership of my experiences.
I have been prescribed neuroleptic drugs at various times and at varying levels, low and high. They have both helped and hindered, depending on the potency, type of drug, and my personal circumstances.
I have to date experienced thirteen periods of schizophrenia. I embrace every occurrence and do not regard them as disparate or isolated, rather as way-markers representing psychic events that have assisted me navigate this Earthly and Universal adventure. These thirteen happenings span twenty five years. I have, however, received psychiatric hospitality, mercifully, only three times...
‘Quoth the Raven!’
For this, I thank my lucky stars and a loving, protective, understanding family. In addition I have a GP whose sensitivity, intelligence, and open mind, are a godsend and I am embraced by a network of supportive friends and colleagues.
The first and following episodes were pervaded by signs, symbolism, synchronicity and significance. As a result, having left the heat of the kitchen, I decided to study art and communicate my experiences using the language and vocabulary of visual media in an endeavour to translate the transforming and positive potential that ‘psychosis’ possesses. I am reluctant to use the title artist, preferring instead the more relevant and specific term Reality Tester. I am not a normal schizophrenic, I am a professional schizophrenic. As a vehicle to communicate the experience of schizophrenia, art is well suited; reality, illusion, metaphor and perception, a synthesis of the elements required to convey the labyrinths of the mind.
It was not until I had rejected psychiatry that I was able to make true sense of, and set into context, my experience of unusual states of consciousness. I feel I have accessed aspects of reality few are privileged to glimpse, like an intrepid explorer who has journeyed to distant and mysterious lands and who has returned to present evidence of his discoveries.
Although I do not regard my experience as an illness, I acknowledge that during periods of schizophrenia I did require assistance, but the harrowing ill-treatment I received at the hands of psychiatry exacerbated inner conflict, intensified mistrust and disregarded my needs.
I am committed to cause of exposing Psychiatric Assault. I do not fear schizophrenia - I do however fear its consequence, psychiatric intervention. Paradoxically it is the threat of intervention that persuades me to keep taking the tablets and live in prescribed reality.
Receiving the label schizophrenia was perhaps inescapable, but if I must be called schizophrenic then understand it is not something I ‘have’ or ‘got’, it is neither an appendage nor something I have contracted, it is something I am. I regard my experience as a natural, integral and vital part of my personal evolution - a blessing, not a curse.