The Wonder People And Me
A new study has been released that seems to indicate that Canada has a higher incidence of schizophrenia than most other countries and it’s on the increase. The study was authored by Dr. Marie-José Dealberto, an associate professor and psychiatrist at Queen’s University. Dr. Dealberto has concluded in her study that there may be a relationship between a lack of sunshine in Canada and/or immigration and the rising incidence of schizophrenia in Canada.
I’m not a psychiatrist and haven’t done any research but I find the link to sunshine and immigration a tad challenging to accept. Canada has had roughly the same amount of sunshine since long before we were Canada and we are a nation of immigrants. It seems odd that a sudden spike in schizophrenia would be attributable to something that has been a part of the country since before its beginning.
I was curious and did some light research on Dr. Dealberto and discovered she has published before and has linked immigration and mental illness in the past. Her work is highly regarded and she is considered a leading authority in this research.
She may be right in her conclusions but I noted in her study that she started with the purpose of trying to prove a causal link between schizophrenia and immigration. Usually when you set down the conclusion you want to reach as part of your study – you’ve pretty much guaranteed you’re going to find the information you need to prove your case.
Indeed, because there were insufficient national statistics on schizophrenia, Dr. Dealberto was forced to cobble together provincial stats and then do some extrapolation and long division to arrive at what she suggests is representative of the increase of the mental disorder in Canada.
Nonetheless, I don’t challenge Dr. Dealberto’s findings. She is respected, trained and has far more knowledge about it all than I do. My knowledge is solely based on personal experience.
I was treated for a mental illness and during that period of my life spent some time in a hospital I called Wonderland where I met more than my share of ‘Wonder People’. They, like me, had become somewhat disconnected from reality. But compared to what I see every day online, most of the folks I got to know during that time seem positively rational.
Dan was a great bear of a guy; tall, strongly built and very soft-spoken. He had a masters in engineering and for a number of years had worked for the federal government. Dan was severely schizophrenic.
Like most schizophrenics, Dan had an obsession and his was the coming apocalypse which was based on a combination of Christian biblical prophecy and the collected works of Issac Assimov and Stephen King in particular King’s ‘The Stand’.
Dan had devoted a considerable amount of his time to designing a domed city to save the chosen 144,000 from the end times. The number was taken from the twelve tribes of Israel and some random information he had gleaned from the Jehovah’s Witness. Being an engineer, he had worked-out how to generate sufficient breathable atmosphere, water, hydroponics to grow food, law enforcement, a judicial system and a dome-religion that was somewhat right-wing fundamentalist in a Noah’s Ark kind of way.
He brought his plan in to show me once after a weekend pass to visit his father. It was contained in a 5” thick binder, neatly typed with all aspects of society mapped out complete with engineering charts and diagrams of the water and atmospheric systems. He had calculated how much carbon dioxide would be emitted by human beings and how much oxygen would be released by photosynthesis of the hydroponic gardens. He had designed systems to deal with garbage, human waste, death and birth. No aspect of human life was too small to escape his attention.
There were times when I wondered if he was an NDP supporter.
He had sent copies to the Canadian and American governments, as well as to, MI6 in Britain and the Mossad in Israel which is probably what first drew him to the attention of the authorities.
When I asked why he had been sent to Wonderland, he told me his sister who is a doctor had him committed on Christmas Day because she stupidly thought he was threatening to kill her. When I asked him how she got that idea, he replied it was probably because he had threatened to kill her.
The Newf was originally from Newfoundland, much younger than Dan and I and absolutely loved the ward and life in general. He loved all the new friends he was making, loved his doctors, the orderlies and the nurses and particularly loved the hospital food. Life had never been better than it was for him at that moment.
Like Dan, the Newf was somewhat obsessed with the coming Apocalypse which he attributed to unrest in the Middle East and bad television shows. He had written a four-page ‘book’ on the subject which he sent to governments all over the world and to as many television networks as he could think of it.
What brought him to Wonderland was his spontaneous decision to drop by the American Embassy to deliver an autographed copy of his four-page book to the American Ambassador complete with verbal warnings of the coming holocaust.
As it turns out, American security takes a somewhat less ambivalent attitude to these kinds of things than I do.
Every few days, the Newf’s girlfriend would visit which almost always resulted in a lot of moaning and whimpering and groaning going on behind closed curtains around his bed for half an hour followed by a somewhat refreshed Newf emerging with a whole new reason to love life and Wonderland.
There were a couple who touched me deeply including a plain, thin woman of about 35 with shoulder-length thin dark hair that hung like thread. She wore black horn rim glasses and two bandage wraps around her wrists. She was an attempted suicide. She never spoke. She simply floated through the ward in silence like a wraith.
Every day, her husband who was a solidly-built, burly kind of guy would come to be with her and they would sit silently in the reception area where he would hold and stroke her hand until it was time for him to leave.
It was a living portrait of loneliness and sadness unlike anything I had ever experienced or ever seen before.
Vera was a homeless woman who suffered from schizophrenia. Nobody knew much about her and like the Wraith she never spoke much except to her hands as she walked around, head down looking at her fingers. Her face had been ravaged by life and her dirty blonde hair had been hacked at and looked like straw stuck on top of her head.
There was a beat up old piano in the recreation area and often, somebody would sit down at it and bang out a tune or simply just bang on it. Whenever somebody started playing at the piano, Vera would go and watch and listen as if the music or even just the noise reached some forgotten place deep inside her.
I remember one day hearing music – real music coming from the piano. This wasn’t the usual stuff, it was Beethoven being played with real technique. It was emotional and powerful. I went back to see who was visiting that could play so well and it was Vera. She was sitting at the piano, eyes closed, her fingers caressing the keys like they were extensions of her hands.
Nobody knew much about Vera other than she had been married, had children somewhere and had studied at Juilliard but that life was gone. Now, she lived on the streets lost in an illness that had robbed her of her life, her family and reality.
Robert was originally from New Brunswick and had been sent to Wonderland after committing an undisclosed crime. The courts had determined the need for a psychiatric evaluation and they were probably right. Robert hated his twin brother who lived in the mirror over the sink in the visitor’s bathroom.
Every night at 6:00, Robert would go into the bathroom and get engaged in a screaming match with his twin brother over who their mother loved best. Robert would yell at his brother and his brother in a different voice would yell right back at him. This would go on until a nurse and orderly would arrive with a very large hypodermic filled with happy juice. Twenty minutes later, Robert would be strapped to his bed drifting somewhere between Wonderland and Mars.
During the day, you could talk to Robert. He was calm and rational until his twin showed up in the mirror each evening.
Dan, The Newf, The Wraith, Robert and Vera were just five of the Wonder people in Wonderland. Each of them was mentally ill, some irreparably. Their illness had ravaged their minds and their lives but I discovered something through them and some of the others.
They were real and they were authentic. They were honest people, as far as their illnesses would allow, and they struggled to be independent and self-reliant. They struggled to reclaim what so many of us simply take for granted.
There is a difference between the Wonder People and many others today. The Wonder People have been disenfranchised from reality by their illness. Too many of the rest of us are disconnected from it because of willful stupidity.
Mental illness is simply that, any one of a dozen different disorders, many of which can be treated; sometimes cured but almost always mitigated and controlled. In other words, you can fix a broken mind but, as Ron White said once, “You can’t fix stupid because stupid is forever.”
We have a lot of stupid people around these days on both the left and the right; people who are so busy being angry about whatever it is, they blindly squander the opportunities our democratic nations, and life itself, provides.
There are too many too stupid to take the time to get informed before they open their mouths; too many so stupid they’re willing to continuously reelect the very politicians they know lied to them after the last election.
Society is dumbing down. We are losing our values, our aspirations, our compassion and our tolerance. I saw more real humanity in Wonderland, more patience, more consideration and civility among the Wonder People than I see in a day on social media.
While it was sometimes difficult to relate to whatever reality to which the Wonder People had been consigned, it was easier than trying to understand the stupidity around us out here where everyone thinks they’re rational.
One thing I learned for sure, while the mentally ill tend to know they’re ill and fight it, each in their own way; stupid people simply refuse to acknowledge just how stupid they are.
While I don’t challenge Dr. Dealberto’s research or her conclusion, I admit that I did wonder if she had confused schizophrenia with stupidity because there is no question that there is a sharp increase in the latter these days.
I doubt it has anything to do with either a lack of sunlight or immigration.
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
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