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The Potter's Hand

Those with physical and mental disabilities face more challenges than the norm.

Those with physical and mental disabilities face more challenges than the norm. I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1978, at the age of 34 years, after remaining undiagnosed, unmedicated, and frightened for three years since it began in 1975, my last year of university studies. I graduated that year with distinction, but my forays into post-graduate education were thwarted by my illness.

As a published author, entrepreneur, mother, daughter, sister, and friend, I am a success but struggle. Everyone struggles with life, particularly when faced with challenges such as millions of men and women confront every day.

Some might say I lost 40 years. I prefer to say I learned something about myself, God and humanity in those 40 years.

Psychotropic medications and treatment at that time were coming out of the Dark Ages when women were hospitalized for life because of menopausal symptoms, and when padded rooms, water therapy, and straitjackets, as well as talking therapy, were the only "cures" - indeed, there is no cure. Prior to the introduction of major tranquilizers in the 1950s, families would shut up in attics their loved ones who were known as "lunatics". Before the discovery of Lithium in 1948, treatments for depression and bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder) consisted of electroconvulsive therapy and lobotomy. Even today, there is a stigma to the extent that many of us won't admit to our disability. We may as well be shut up in an attic.

It's a disability, not a handicap. Why, then, are the mentally ill sent out homeless on the street with no supports and no social understanding? Why do therapists encourage family and friends to be caregivers, rather than encouraging and delighting in the wings we might find? What happens to the mentally ill senior? Anyone know why people 65 years of age and older, particularly men, have the highest suicide rate of any other group? Does anyone care?

There's a resource kit put out by the Centre for Suicide Prevention. It may be accessed here - or by calling (780) 482-4357 (Crisis Support Centre). There is a Senior's Abuse Helpline at (780) 454-8888.

Physical exercise is an excellent therapy, and recommended by most physicians, but to those with delusions, hallucinations, depression, sleep disorders, anxiety disorders, or eating disorders, etc., this may seem superficial and impossible. Cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be successful in treating the symptoms, but not for everyone. It's important to take the medications, but finding the right drug and the right dosage, side effects and resulting compliance, are sometimes problematic.

"Some seek the comfort of their therapist's office, others head to the corner pub and dive into a pint, but I chose running as my therapy."
-; Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

This mental illness can be torture, but only, I suspect, because we are held in the cage of someone else's understanding. We may have been a holy person or healer in another culture, another time.

"...the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a cure for a sickness and therefore as good."
-; Theodore Kaczynski

There's a time for every purpose under heaven. I exercise, take medications and participate in talk therapy, a conservative approach recommended by most therapists. As well, I delight in our uniqueness; the whole world.

What then - did the hand of the potter shake?