The following article was published in the summer 2010 edition of SZ Magazine http://www.szmagazine.com/. I'm reproducing it here as I don't know how to make a link on my blog! Being somewhat technologically challenged and depending on my brilliant son to help me out with cyber problems...SZ Magazine 47
I sometimes feel we need a “Robin
Hoodette” to the disenfranchised
peoples of the world.
I was there myself once, and I
know we need a spokesperson. I
feel as though I’m shedding scales
and a cold, thick, dark skin and I am
running into the sunlight.
I was diagnosed with paranoid
schizophrenia in 1978 at the age of
34. I first became ill two years prior
to that, running scared and wild,
unmedicated, misunderstood, in
trouble with the law.
There is ignorance and fear
engendered in the general public
about any form of mental illness.
People hide their depression, their
struggles with Seasonal Affective
Disorder, their schizophrenia, their
bipolar illnesses, and the many other
forms that mental illness takes.
Modern medicine has developed
medications and therapies that
weren’t present even 20 years ago,
yet the stigma remains. Why is this?
Are we responsible for a chemical
imbalance which many specialists say
has as physical a cause as diabetes
or arthritis? Are those who suffer from
a mental illness “bad,” dangerous, or
We deal with prejudice or
incompetence of the very therapists
who treat us, prejudice of employers
and the public (sometimes our own
family and friends), and yet we get up
every morning to face another day.
The media may be partially to
blame: producing glaring headlines
when a “former mental patient”
commits an infrequent heinous crime.
In reality, the incidence of violence
by people with a mental illness is so
infrequent that a headline like that is
warranted when it does happen.
In the past, our friends and family
may have acquiesced to a caretaking
role or worse, abandonment.
I was told I would be incapable of
working for a living; I would be in and
out of mental institutions for the rest
of my life; I was doing well to “cope”
and shouldn’t expect any more from
life such as self-actualization or joy;
that many with my diagnosis lost the
capacity of emotion and my cognitive
capabilities would decline. This came
from well-meaning professionals who
thought they were presenting reality.
Thank God times have changed since
the 1970s and ’80s, but they haven’t
changed nearly enough.
The era is long since gone when
we were institutionalized for life, or
drugged with major tranquilizers,
or relegated to the attic. The law is
slowly beginning to recognize that
certain punishment is not appropriate,
but our governments aren’t so
progressive. Many of our street
people are mentally ill, having fallen
through the cracks of society. Those
of us who struggle with apathy and
lack of motivation may indeed find
difficulty in working, find difficulty in
relationships, but be superhuman
in our efforts to achieve enough
energy to simply get out of bed in the
morning to face another day.
I’ve had my own transcription
business for more than 11 years;
I support myself, volunteer, study
a foreign language, and read
voraciously; I am a published writer;
and I have a network of friends and
other social relationships. I also have
schizophrenia and must get a depot
injection of a psychotropic medication
every two weeks to maintain my
We all know that medications,
although vital to our mental health,
are not enough. I have learned to
cope; I have learned to go on when
all seemed dark; I have learned to
make good friends; I have learned to
live without abuse; and I have learned
to find joy.
There’s a reason for our struggle
and it may reside in the tolerance and
gentleness we learn. If you are among
the thousands who are struggling, may
you, too, delight and not despair.
Kenna McKinnon is a self-employed
medical transcriptionist and writer.
By Kenna McKinnon
MY VOI CE
Photo: courtesy of Kenna McKinnon
“Those of us who struggle with apathy and lack of motivation may
indeed find difficulty in working, find difficulty in relationships,
but be superhuman in our efforts to achieve enough energy to
simply get out of bed in the morning to face another day.”