Recovery in the Media: #68. Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son’s Story

Henry's Demons

This story by father and son tells the truth about the struggles and recovery process of schizophrenia.

68. Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son’s Story by Patrick Cockburn and Henry Cockburn

Schizophrenia is a disorder that many people know about but few fully understand. People with it are characterized as crazy, murderous, vicious, impossible to interact with, etc. However, there is much more to these people than those negative conotations. Awhile ago, I wrote a review of A Beautiful Mind. For this Media Monday, I decided to focus on another recovery-focused work about suicide, this time a book titled Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son’s Story.

Synopsis: What can be worse than receiving news that your 20-year-old son followed the voices instructions and tried to drown himself? Patrick Cockburn and his wife experienced this with their son Henry, who was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. This book, written by father and son, rides the ups and downs of this family’s life with this life-altering illness. Mother and father fight for their son to improve while he tries to convince the world that he is not ill. This and many other tensions fill this fascinating memoir.

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One Thousand Thanks: 877 – 887. People With Disabilites

Dressed up at the film festival with my friend Rachel

Dressed up at the film festival with my friend Rachel

This week, my university has celebrated Disability Appreciation Week. Speakers during chapel shared with the student body what life is like with OCD, dyslexia, sensory processing disorder, depression, albinism and many other health issues. In fact, I shared in a panel today about my journey with an eating disorder, aspergers, and more.

During this week, I have realized more than ever how many wonderful people struggle with some type of disability. Whether from a mental illness or a learning disorder, many gifted people throughout history have faced some health issue. Many great people in my own life have as well. This post is to honor all of them and state my thankfulness that they are in this world and made a positive impact on it.

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Why Do We Believe Visible Pain More?

Me at Goodwill

Sometimes the pain inside cannot be seen.

A phrase I often utter flippantly is “I will die falling down a flight of stairs.” This is not a morbid prediction as much as a slight jab at my lack of grace. During my preteen years, a doctor once said that I had “clumsy-kid syndrome.” Just what every adolescent girl wants to hear.

Anyway, this saying of mine once again was proven today. As I attempted to walk up a flight of outdoor stairs, I tripped and fell on the concrete. Although my hands were remarkably unmarked, blood began to gush from my knee. Wandering back into my school where I was helping with the graduation ceremony, I found one of the women who worked in the registrar’s office and requested a bandage.

“Oh my goodness, will you be okay?” She wondered as she attempted to stop the bleeding. However, the red substance continued to flow and even leak out of the BandAid. While she bustled about trying to find a way to help me, I felt oddly relieved about the blood. After all, it proved that I had really been injured and needed some attention. I was not just some wimp who begged for help over a tiny bump. My body’s physical reaction proved that something was wrong and needed healing.

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“Is Everything You Do Disordered?”

Order and disorder, form and formless must have profound psychological roots, nervous roots. - Delmore Schwartz

Order and disorder, form and formless must have profound psychological roots, nervous roots.
– Delmore Schwartz

The other day, someone asked me, “Is everything you do disordered?”

Stumped, I just looked at them with an open mouth. Did that person really just ask me that? Blinking rapidly kept tears from falling down my face. However, after I pondered the question for a few minutes, the answer seemed less clear. Was everything that I did disordered? If so, did I need to change everything about me?

I stand while reading or working on the computer instead of sitting to get “exercise.” My daydreams about working out at the university gym certainly do not come from a healthy place. Most of my food, clothing, and friendship choices are dictated by my eating disorder, aspergers, anxiety, PTSD, or OCD. There are certain behaviors that cause myself harm – but not too much harm – that might still function as SIB.

So, taking those all into account, is everything that I do disordered?

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If I’m Not Broken, Then What am I?

The Mystery of a Healthy Me

A healthy outside starts from the inside. – Robery Urich

About a year ago, my father told me that I was not broken. “I don’t want to try to fix you,” he looked straight into my eyes with a sad smile. “I want to help you.”

This impacted me greatly. So often people treat me like I am flawed. If I can just be free of the eating disorder, if only I stop thinking like that, once I live in the way that they think is “normal” and “healthy,” then I can be free and happy. Until then, something is wrong with me.

Truthfully, my illnesses destroy me and my relationships. If I obey the disordered voices in my head, I would be dead or hospitalized. But does that mean that something deep down inside of me is broken?  No, I don’t think so.

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The Badge of Anorexia

The Badge of Anorexia

I am not ashamed of my past but I am also ready to change for the better.

As I sat around two years ago in an eating disorder facility waiting to hear the results of my intake, I just had one thought: please let it be anorexia.  Sad, but true.  After struggling with over-eating and being overweight, I longed to have statistics prove that I was too thin.  To my horror, I was diagnosed EDNOS or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified because of my normal weight.  Turns out I had not starved myself enough.

Now, I have come to understand how eating disorders destroy numerous peoples’ lives regardless of shape, race, gender, or age.  I do not judge a single one of the people that I have met based on their diagnosis.  Each of them touched my life with their unique inspiring stories and hearts.  Never would I tell one of them that they are not good enough or anyone else for that matter.  Certainly not based on their weight or what type of eating disorder that they have!

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Goodbye to a Doctor

Unless one says goodbye to what one loves, and unless one travels to completely new territories, one can expect merely a long wearing away of oneself and an eventual extinction. - Jean Dubuffet Goodbyes are always difficult for me.  Not only do they disrupt the structure my Aspergian brain craves, they also leave me feeling broken.  Part of me seems to leave with the other person.  Thus each farewell in life weighs heavily on my heart.

Now, many people struggle with saying goodbye.  However, most take consolation in the hope of seeing their loved ones again.  Excluding death or complete separation, most goodbyes on this earth do not last forever.  Phones, e-mails, Facebook, cars, and planes help us to stay in touch with just about anyone even if they live miles away.  That is one of the benefits of living in this generation.

Yet there is a goodbye that I have said numerous times that usually lasts for the rest of my life.  Those who have dealt with physical, mental, or emotional health problems have gone through this as well.  It is the parting from a doctor, psychologist, nurse, or other member of your care team.

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