ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Mystery of Evolving Past Unawareness

Jack Bragen
Friday January 22, 2016 - 01:41:00 PM

Hard knocks can do a person some good, but only if something is learned as a result. (This is not to say that you should go looking for them.) If a situation goes south, and if it is painful enough, you can learn from it, and try not to repeat the same mistakes. Or you could do otherwise; for example, blame someone else, and continue the flawed behavior.  

This is not to say that we are to blame for all bad things happening to us--on the contrary. Sometimes the lesson that needs to be learned is about defending oneself from the baloney, sabotage, or assault perpetrated by others. Or, bad things can happen when no one is at fault; we could still try to learn something from them. 

But, what was it, in the past nearly twenty years since my last hospitalization, that turned on a light bulb in my head and allowed me to start evolving as a person, from a place of near stupidity despite having an above average I.Q., to a place of being able to reason effectively, and apply this to life situations?  

I was in denial about a number of things. I wasn't aware of how my behavior affected other people. People confronted me. After more time in treatment, I was finally able to hear some of that.  

I was put on Olanzapine after eighteen years of taking only Prolixin. Yet, also, I was (and still am) practicing meditation. It is not Zen, but rather, a self-invented mishmash of cognitive techniques and random thought, originally written down on ream after ream of yellow tablets of paper.  

If in contact with geniuses, or even grounded people, eventually some of that rubs off onto a person, not to say that we don't all have potential. However, my dealings with editors, friends, family, and mental health practitioners have helped me to become grounded into a commonly accepted and more accurate version of reality.  

My wife has done me a lot of good, since she has been willing to stick with me and confront me when I do something inconsiderate, unclear or dumb. I am fortunate that I have learned to hear someone when they tell me forcefully enough that I have done something wrong. People probably like that about me.  

My grasp of reality arose from a combination of participating in treatment, my own efforts, and osmosis through associating with intelligent people. About nineteen years ago, I was emerging from severe delusions, and, on a deep level, I wanted to learn to think better with more accuracy.  

As I approach the twenty-year mark of not being hospitalized, my thinking continues to improve, and I hope that this is apparent in the quality of my writing.  

Now, I have released another self-published book, a memoir, (available on Amazon or directly from The title is "Schizophrenia: My 35-Year Battle." It outlines some of many hardships, not all of which could be attributed to unclear thought, and it shows how I have experienced repeated setbacks in life, yet have persisted in trying to make things better for myself. Someone suggested the title: "Schizophrenia, my 35 year struggle," but I believe "Battle" is a better word, since it brings to mind "battling cancer" as opposed to "struggle" which implies being plagued with problems.  

I suffer from a disease that affects thought and behavior, and I have battled against that disease, even while suffering the consequences of behavior and speech generated by the condition. I have also dealt with the consequences of standing out as a disabled person seeking success--it has made me a target. 

So, I chose to say "battle" which makes me sound brave, rather than "struggle" which implies turpitude or perhaps weakness. You should read the book and judge for yourself. It costs about fifteen dollars plus shipping, and I am not offering an electronic copy, since it is too easy for computer people to convert an e-book to PDF and distribute copies without paying me.