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Mental Health

A reminder that this article from our magazine Visions was published more than 1 year ago. It is here for reference only. Some information in it may no longer be current. It also represents the point of the view of the author only. See the author box at the bottom of the article for more about the contributor.

Schizophrenia of My Times

Walter Beier

Reprinted from "Seniors' Mental Health" issue of Visions Journal, 2002, No. 15, p. 25

In the past five years, I was given the freedom to ask for the treatment records concerning my schizophrenia, but I didn’t ask. This is my mental health history as I remember it.

In 1964, I entered formal treatment for my illness with a psychiatrist. I also entered group therapy. That did not work, nor did the time spent one-on-one with the psychiatrist.

Over time, several mind-altering prescription drugs were tried on me. Each did something different. One, I remember, made me fat. Another, a sibling told me years later, made me look like a zombie. A minimal dose of Haldol worked best among its generation of medications. I am now on Risperdal, a new generation drug.

I strove to be amiable in real terms, but I found that very stressful in my various social groupings. I felt depressed because I could not hear my voice in the public dialogue. There were no mentors or role models or codes of ethics for people like myself, who had such tender sensibilities.

Until the mid-70s, there was no subsidized housing for people like me. There was also no legislation concerning disabilities and entitlements. I felt I had no choice but to live with my parents through my adulthood, until they died when I was in my 30s. After my parents’ deaths, I stayed with a brother for some time. I was greatly relieved when I found a suite I could afford. I also found work for a few years, but the jobs did not work out.

In 1977, I found out that I qualified for a provincial disability allowance. This also allowed me, at a mere 37 years old, to get into a Lion’s Club seniors’ residential complex. It was a bachelor suite, which I could afford with money to spare! I could also afford to go for coffee in nearby restaurants for a change of pace.

In 1984, Langley Stepping Stone Rehabilitative Society was founded. Few people with mental illness came to it in the beginning. I went, but not with regularity. Over time, the membership kept increasing. I felt structure developing, and I began to go more often.

Somewhere in the 1990s I was involved, in a small way, in helping the Society raise over a million dollars to build a lovely, larger clubhouse. Langley city contributed a fifty-year lease on the property for the clubhouse. The province reluctantly contributed a quarter of a million dollars, and charitable organizations contributed the rest of the required amount. Although my part had been small, I felt proud as punch to have contributed in my way. It’s up and running now and has over two hundred members. While I have outgrown it, the clubhouse was the only social body I felt sure would accept me.

Also during the 1990s, I was a member of the local advisory council on mental health. Along with others, I spoke on the mental health experience to secondary schools, colleges, and a university. During the same period, I was elected to the Langley Stepping Stone Member’s Committee. A few years ago I was part of the BC Minister’s Advisory Council on Mental Health. I also became a member of the Board of Stepping Stone Rehabilitative Society. I felt productive. I felt good.

In 1990, I was accepted into a new, subsidized one-bedroom suite created for clients with mental illness, which costs me only $200 a month. During the past 10 years I have also got a computer with Windows 95 on it, and I also have TV and cable connections that enable me to get good programs.

I would like to be more involved without being more stressed out. I guess it is not unnatural for me to want something more and/or better. I do appreciate what I have though. My ears perk up when I hear on the news about people with mental illness who are materially disadvantaged in ways I have never experienced. I always had a roof over my head and enough money for food, and I was quietly grateful for those two things, quiet because I did not want to jinx my good fortune. Maybe I want something better because I have more selfworth. More people with mental illness should have it as good or better than I do.

While I no longer go to Stepping Stone very often, I do have social contacts. One is a supported independent living worker. The other is a retired, now disabled, program director. I count my blessings for them. For 44 years, I have known God was a valuable element in my life. Having some people in your life is also valuable. All things considered, life is good.

About the author
Walter lives in Langley. In this article he relates how he has dealt with his illness over the years

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