When I look back at my youth, I was always sad and crying. The breakdown came as a surprise and shock. I started to think it was some sort of punishment for something I did. When I was hospitalized I lost everything, including my home and possessions. It was incredibly sad when I had to give up my cats also. All of a sudden my whole life had changed. I had always been independent. Now I was totally dependent on other people for my livelihood. At this time I live in a family co-op household with four other women with psychiatric disabilities. When you are in the mental health system only, you live in a bubble. You are isolated. I have questions about my illness. Will I ever again be the person I was years ago?
I was hospitalized twice for psychotic episodes, followed by a six month stay in a halfway house. I was already lucky enough to be deeply politicized as a gay man. The pain of stigma had taught me to be vigilant against allowing others to name my experience for me. Rather to look at this time as sickness, I came to view it as a period of spiritual crisis during which I experienced a natural albeit frightening aspect of human capability. I was crazy, psychotic, grandiose and paranoid. I was also closer to the center of mystery and miracle of my life than I had ever experienced.
Bruce Bronzan staunch Assembly advocate for the mentally ill.
Reed Kaplan, MD, Neurologist, Psychiatrist and former Medical Director of Inpatient Psychology at Stanford University, surrounded by parents looking for answers.
My ultimate goals in life, and they aren’t for all mentally ill people, are to get out of mental health, live independently, and let go of medication if that will ever be possible.
I am not diagnosed schizophrenic. I am emotionally disturbed. I have been experimenting with drugs, made suicide attempts and been in and out of hospitals. For the past four years I have been doing well with help of medication and am now able to live in a satellite apartment. I am thankful to Ian Adamson. He got me into the Mental Health System and looked after me and my family in a time of crisis.
Having experienced the horrendous pain and frustration of our eldest child’s serious mental illness and having felt so alone with no helpful resources to turn to, we are now committed to helping as many other families as we can. Studies show that 40% of families faced with problems of mental illness turn to their clergy first, yet ranked that source of support the least helpful. We are committed to changing this so that more families and people with mental illness can be aided by their place of worship.
Schizophrenia is a no-fault disease. It destroys the productive lives of its victims, it breaks up families, it estranges friends, it shatters budgets and saving accounts, it raises taxes. It fills up more hospital beds than any five of the other major diseases that plague mankind combined. We should stop looking at schizophrenia as of it were contagious; it is not. We should stop expecting schizophrenics to manage their own affairs without guidance; they cannot. We should not think they are violent, because they are not. The most important thing that we can do is to accept them as members of our society who need help.
Dying of alcoholism, dressed in rags, I picked myself off a bench in New York City’s Thompson Square Park and came to San Francisco to recover. I had been in and out of the mental health care system and had attempted suicide. During my detox I suffered from severe paranoid delusions. It is my belief that everybody is a poet and that poetry is a way to empower oneself to begin to heal. Poets have traditionally served in political office in Third World nations: why not in America? At times I have fantasies of some day becoming America’s first Poet Congress man.