Hard Reality

Natalie Fuller wrote the following untitled poem:

On and off

that’s how I am

like a light switch

One day I make perfect sense

the next day I’m nonsense

the next day I’m insane

and then I’m an angel

I wish I could be myself


I can really relate to that because that was me for nearly 25 years.

Then surprisingly the psychotic episodes quit coming. The switch has stayed on for nearly 30 years now. There was a medication switch. I had reached forty with greater maturity and experience with my disease. Now at the onset of psychosis there was a brief period of time where I knew I was in trouble and I had some tools to use. But I don’t really know why the demons went away and haven’t come back.

I wrote a book about my experiences and my life hoping to provide hope and inspiration to families dealing with serious mental illness because even though numerous times I’ve been as crazy as anyone ever gets, I’ve led a pretty good life.

For me to set myself up as a shining example of the degree of recovery everyone can experience, however, would be a sham and a travesty.

I was recently exposed to an excellent blog entitled “Mind You” written by Marvin Ross and Dr. David Dawson. Reading one of Marvin’s posts I learn: “According to the Merck Manual with regard to schizophrenics, “One third achieve significant and lasting improvement. One third improve somewhat but have intermittent relapses and residual disability, and one third are severely and permanently incapacitated. Only about 15% of all patients fully return to their pre-illness level of functioning.””

“These numbers have not really changed much over the years although as a UK source states, “Early intervention and more effective treatment means that the outcome is not as bleak as it once was.””

I don’t know what percentage of these people get the best available treatment. I don’t know the stats for people with bipolar 1 with psychotic features but suspect they are very similar. I do know that I am very, very lucky. I’m definitely in the first group and maybe the last. Why?

I doubt that I tried any harder or did much differently than those in the third group. I didn’t get more support from family and loved ones than many. I’m just randomly, damned lucky.

Survivors of combat who have seen friends die in battle experience what is called “survivors remorse.” I feel something akin to that. Fellow sufferers of serious mental illnesses are like brothers and sisters in arms. I have known some who became fatalities and many who have struggled much more than I. Why my good fortune? I’m no more deserving than anyone else.

I can only do my best to advocate for those less fortunate.

Regardless of what category one might be in, everyone should be helped to the fullest extent that they can be helped. Those of us in the first group may live on our own, have meaningful relationships and hold down jobs. Those in the second group may need AOT. Those in the third may need psychiatric hospital beds or some combination of AOT and asylum. Not nearly enough beds still exist.

The paradox and tragedy to me is that given greater understanding of mental illness and better available treatment options, ‘These numbers have not really changed much over the years…” Too many people who really need treatment are not getting it for a variety of reasons.

We need a public outcry for all of us mentally ill to get the treatment necessary to live the fullest lives we can. So many lives have been needlessly wasted over the past five decades.

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