People that have Won


I've been meaning to send this to you for quite some time.  My daughter
wrote this when she was a junior at Salem State College. . .and I feel
so strongly for the need of "positive" material in your efforts.  She
continues to do well and I'm so grateful.  (I'd never ever take it for
granted). In fact she recently became happily married.


Soundings East
Volume 17, No.  2
Fall/Winter 1993

Kristin Viana

What is schizophrenia?  It's a murderer of childhood.  It's a seven year
old cowering below the curtains when no one is watching.  It's an
apprehensive little girl bravely trying to cover her fear of the twisted
hallucination that waits beyond the panes when people are present and
there is no place to hide.  God forbid, should anyone know.  They might
blame her imagination again, tell her to learn not to fear her thoughts,
and she can't - not yet.

What is schizophrenia?  It's a slaughterer of innocence.  It's an eight
year old asking the man in the mirror questions.  His face is not her
reflection; she HOPES his face is not her reflection.  She goes to
school and hears the other kids tell jokes about crazy people who talk
when no one is there.  She laughs with her friends, thinking they must
be only kidding, they must talk to their walls too.  She can't tell them
about her reflection.  It's that imagination again; can't she just grow
up and manage it?

What is schizophrenia?  It's a nine year old convinced that she lives
somewhere far, far away.  It's wondering whether or not there are
corpses spread in the grass up on the hill.  It's the sudden realization
in a sane moment that there is no such grass, that there is no such
hill.  It's slipping far, far away again and searching diligently
through woods and storybooks and "National Geographics" in search of
those gentle valleys.  She takes out crayons and draws maps of lands
that she suspects do not exist, but can never quite be sure.  She wants
to show somebody, to have him follow her directions and prove to her
whether or not the hill is real, whether she can accept the sane moment
as the truth.  No one has time to follow the silly maps of a little girl
with runaway imagination.

What is schizophrenia?  It's a mask.  It's a ten year old in fourth
grade with outstanding verbal skills.  It's the well-adjusted child who
always gets homework done on time.  She tells the truth when teachers
ask if she's been up to no good.  She smiles a lot and draws happy
pictures for her friends.  She never speaks out of turn.  All the other
children see her as so mature.  The teachers laugh and read the stories
she writes and say, "I hope she doesn't lose that imagination when she
grows up."

What is schizophrenia?  It's an eleven year old who gets invited to all
the parties but never goes.  She always has an excuse, a reason why she
can't be there.  Sometimes she has to be forced kicking and screaming to
a party that her parents find essential that she attend.  She is scared
of people who love her.  She is a huge mystery to her parents, who only
see her in the corner in her room, chewing her nails, trying to write it
all out on paper and coming up with nothing but foreign symbols that
make her cry.  She wants to go home where the people speak that
language, but to do that she'd have to break the law of gravity.  She
cries in the corner, and her parents think, "God, is she EVER going to
grow up?"

What is schizophrenia?  It's a reserved twelve year old, a girl who
cannot relate to her flesh-and-blood mortal friends while her mind rages
with friends who aren't there.  She cries almost every night in
desperation that someone will understand the waves breaking between her
ears.  The boy behind her has a crush on her, yet she never can look him
in the eye.  There's not room enough in her brain for him.  He courts
her shyly, but boys are still a sort of nastiness in her cluttered
judgment.  There is no room for someone else in her life, and she tells
him so.  Her relatives say she won't feel that way when she grows up.

What is schizophrenia?  It is the stalker of a thirteen year old girl
who should be on the ski team and going to dances.  Instead she sits
meditating on the hill with the corpses, wondering if maybe she's
someplace in England.  Bloated images of people she knows are still
alive float over her bed at night and dribble Vaseline into the air.
The dead man who built the stone walls on the ancient farmland below so
many years ago anchors himself onto her bedroom window to watch her all
night long.  Unicorns fly by and the people in the walls call her name.
She knows there's something wrong, even if no one else does.  Doesn't
anyone see it, see that something in her is growing up terribly wrong?

What is schizophrenia?  It's a fourteen year old dreading each passing
moment.  She now sees she has grown up enough to know that these noises
and visions, anxieties and phobias, aren't like those of everyone else.
She works to bury the realization, resolves to pretend it is not, has
not, and will not happen.  She forces herself to be with people, just
because she is tired of not fitting and she suffocates.  She is a
fourteen year old that is being spied upon.  The people who are
suffocating her have tapped into her thoughts and know what she feels
and hears and sees.  They have clamped invisible clamps on her skull and
know every impulse.  She hopes that they see she needs help.  These mind
readers chime in agreement with the verdict of the school psychologist:
She is to straighten up and fly right.  She wonders how she has gotten
so off course.  How are her friends expert navigators through the clouds
of growing up?

What is schizophrenia?  It's as low as life gets.  It's a fifteen year
old girl who cannot stand anymore.  She has given up after eight years
of listening to screaming and seeing bleeding walls that hold what's
left of her mind from some sick new form of mental rigor mortis.  It is
the relief of seeing a possible glimmer of horror in someone else's eyes
(finally, finally in someone else's eyes!)  and then the deflated
elation of hearing the confidante say, "I was like that when I was
growing up."  No, no, NOBODY has grown up like this.

What is schizophrenia?  It's a girl celebrating the first sixteen years
of her life in a locked ward.  It is a callous remark by student nurses
who think she has no ears, no brain, no feelings.  It's wondering if
life is worth the trouble.  It's seizures and over-medication and three
doctors wanting to treat her condition three different ways.  It's long
nights in a hot room with someone who doesn't give a damn beyond his
paycheck whether or not she's alive, much less asleep.  It's parents
trying to make things easier by saying that the ward is much like a dorm
room.  She doesn't care.  She doesn't think that she'll live to grow up
old enough to be in college.

What is schizophrenia?  It's a window to the world of people who can't
quite fit into the throngs of society.  It's a seventeen year old girl
skipping math class to help a Down's Syndrome girl to learn to count, to
help a boy with cerebral palsy stand for a few seconds away from his
wheelchair, it's getting an autistic boy to say her name.  It's a
realization that life needs to go forward, life will go forward and
doesn't give a damn whether or not she goes forward with it.  It's
falling out with the friends she had and climbing into relationships
with people who have walked the salt pits with open wounds.  She has
grown to love what society left behind.

What is schizophrenia?  It's an eighteen year old whose time is spent as
if she only lives in the present.  She begins to see that one doctor is
right.  "No expectations," he told her, "just pay attention."  Time
passes and the anxiety and anger and noise persist, but she begins to
see that she has a chance to break the spell of the master oppressor.
She sees where she failed before and forges ahead of where the
counselors ever thought she would be able  to go.  She can look down and
see that they were just border markers of her domain.

What is schizophrenia?  It's a thief and a mark of the blessed.  It's a
nineteen year old who cries at being left at school realizing for the
first time that the bandit has walked off with adolescence and dropped
her square into adulthood.  She talks to her doctor about the friends
that have deserted her somewhere in the fog that schizophrenia laid over
her life.  There are no solutions, there are no answers to why the
lowest point was faced alone.  What matters is that she has weathered
the cold and isolation of illness through some sort of grace.  He cannot
tell her why or even surely how it happened.  In one year she is able to
grow up more than she has in ten.

What is schizophrenia?  It's a twenty year old woman who has fought the
murderer/stalker/mask/loss of innocence all her life just to be where
she is today.  She forgets things once in a while.  She has to take so
much medication a day that she must use her tuition money for the pills
that keep her head clear and make her heart murmur.  She uses spending
money on the blue tablets to fight the drug-induced muttering.  She is a
junior in college.  She is on the Dean's List.  She has found a man who
loves her, and she's not afraid to be near him anymore.  She has found
company with people who are not the most popular or beautiful.  She
stands in alliance with people that have won.



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