A while ago, I wrote about a former neighbor who suffered with paranoid schizophrenia. On her good days we had wonderful conversations. She was a gifted poet and had earned a M.A. in Fine Arts from a prestigious university. On her bad days, she knew my door was open if she wanted my help. Otherwise, I left her alone. And so we lived amicably, side by side, for many years until her illness got the upper hand and she was moved to a less stressful setting. I was relieved for her as I could see the deterioration taking place, but even now, I miss her. My current neighbor is real estate agent in his late 20’s with a bright future. He’s pleasant, but as he knows nothing of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, we have little in common.
Given my history with my former neighbor, I was drawn to an article about schizophrenia in Scientific American Mind. The story that unfolded was one of a young woman’s struggle to conquer the disease and her ultimate triumph.
Her journey began with a voice that appeared in her head one day, berating her and attempting to undermine her confidence. Naturally, she was terrified and fought the upbraiding but other voices followed. One day, exhausted by her struggle, she had an epiphany. These voices weren’t her enemies, she realized. They were a part of her — fragments from a troubled childhood. Destroy them and she would be engaging in self-annihilation.
Instead, she let down her defenses and allowed the voices in, treating them as friends. She listened to their complaints with courtesy, and in time, these complaints receded. The process of regaining her life took years, of course, and to some extent, humor provided vital medicine. To this day, she laughs and admits that because of her illness, she can eavesdrop on conversations around her while conducting one of her own. (“Listening to Voices,” by Eleanor Longden, Scientific American Mind, Sept/Oct. 2013, pgs. 34-39)
I marvel at the way Longden has mastered her illness, displaying both courage and grace. What’s more, she may be right about deriving benefits from her illness. Having conquered the demons inside her, she seems fully qualified to do battle with the world’s outer ones.
(Courtesy of www.psychologynoteshq.com)