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October 06, 1995 - Image 51

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-10-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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s a young adult, Doug
started hearing voices and
thinking the Communists
were out to brainwash

him.
Now 58, Doug chuckles when
he talks about the delusions. His
laughter, however, is cautious.
He knows the voices and the
Communists can re-enter his
mind at any given time — and
they have, on occasion, during the
last four decades.
When the voices started, Doug
said they made him feel perse-
cuted by co-workers because he
thought everyone was after him.
Eventually, he quit his job. "It
was a good job," said Doug, who
> worked as an executive runner
1
for the Chrysler Corp.
After feeling sicker and more
depressed, Doug eventually re-
alized it was time to get help.
Doctors diagnosed him with
paranoid schizophrenia, a disor-
der based on feelings of persecu-
tion. Like schizophrenia, it is
\) characterized by disturbances in
thought, emotion and behavior,
as well as illogical ideas.
Doug said it was the stress in
his life that caused him to "go un-
der."
"My mind just snapped," he
said. "I don't know how it hap-
pened. The doctors don't know ei-
ther. They say it's all chemical."
According to the Michigan De-
partment of Mental Health, 3 to
5 percent of the adult population
has been diagnosed with a seri-
ous mental illness such as schiz-
ophrenia or severe depression.
Although mental-health experts
say such illnesses are not curable,
> they can be managed with med-
ication and counseling.
For the unafflicted, under-
standing mental illness can be
difficult.
"The best way I can describe
hearing voices, without knowing
firsthand, is to compare it to hear-
ing someone speaking over an in-
tercom," said Nancy Baskin, a
focus worker with Kadima, the
metro Detroit Jewish organiza-
tion for adults with mental ill-
ness.
"The difference is, it's not real.
The voices are in your head and
they are incessant. Trying to ig-
nore them, turn them off or es-
cape is difficult. Everyone asks if
there is a cure (for mental illness).
I don't think any doctor can tell
a patient he or she is entirely
cured."
"It's terrifying," Doug said.
"You think people are saying
things to you and following you.
Deep in your heart, you know it's
not true. You also know the voic-
es you hear from people are not
true. At the time I thought I was
right, but now it's all foolishness.
"I had a good life with a good

Those affiliated with Kadima tell what it's like to suffer with mental illness.

JENNIFER FINER STAFF WRITER

job and my father and I shared a
home. Now my life is about the
best it's going to be. It's a hard re-
ality to get used to, but I've ad-
justed to it and I feel good about
myself."
At the onset of his illness,
Doug overdosed on sleep and
drink as his only relief. "I'd go to
the bar and get loaded," he said.
"Alcohol helped take the edge
off."
Thanks to medication and
treatment, including the coun-
seling and support services Doug
receives through Kadima, he has
been able to distinguish between
reality and illusion. He is proud
to say he has been in remission

since the spring and has his own
apartment.
Doug was diagnosed in his ear-
ly 20s, falling within the 17-24
age parameter when the onset of
mental illness is most common.
Like Doug, Michael, now 32
and also a Kadima client, was di-
agnosed with a psychotic disor-
der in his late teens or early 20s.
He isn't sure when it started and
cannot remember many details
about the onset of his disease.
He does know he hears voices,
experiences panic attacks and
has difficulty expressing his
anger.
"It came on just like that, and
I began to feel different," he said.

Michael also is proud he lives
on his own. He has lived inde-
pendently for two years now,
about the same amount of time
he's been assisted by Kadima.
With the help of his Kadima
focus worker, Nancy Baskin,
Michael overcame a major ob-
stacle two months ago when he
flew to Maine to visit a friend.
Making the trip was a major
milestone for Michael, who gets
especially anxious when he's in
a new situation.
Weeks before the trip, Michael
and Ms. Baskin took a trip to the
airport. There, they went through
each of the steps he would have
to complete on his own: from go-

A drawing by a Kadima client from an art therapy session.

ing to the ticket checker to board-
ing the plane.
While Michael was in Maine,
he heard more voices than usu-
al.
"I was hearing voices like
crazy," he said. "It was annoying.
The voices said things like, 'Why
did you pick Maine? You wasted
your money coming here.
Couldn't you go somewhere else?'
"At times I can ignore them.
Sometimes I'd say, 'Shut up. I'm
not talking to you."
During his week-long vacation,
Michael was overcome by what
he described as a "weird, funny
feeling."
`The feeling made me run," he
said. "I ran down the steps of my
buddy's apartment. I ran out on
the street and down the road be-
fore I went back."
Michael, a maintenance work-
er at a local bakery, said he is try-
ing hard to better himself. But he
feels he has made less than half
the progress he would like to be
making.
Right now, he believes people
look at him "as if he is a nobody.
"I want to look at me like
I'm a somebody, not a nobody,"
he said.
., 40, is fixated on the O.J.
Simpson trial, likes to fol-
low politics and is excited to
talk about some of her fa-
vorite novels.
She is also thrilled about her
new job in the travel industry.
Recently she began answering
over-the-phone questions about
state tourism.
Employment is especially
meaningful because it has been
a while since Liz held a job.
In February 1994, Liz had
surgery, which she said put her
through some hard times.
"I've always been emotional-
ly depressed," she said. "But then
I got sick and it developed into
a harsher form of depression. I
couldn't get up, I avoided life, and
it was hard to perform daily liv-
ing tasks.
For some time, she tried to
hide her feelings from friends and
family but that became too dif-
ficult. Counseling has helped Liz
overcome her feelings of shame.
She is not on medication and isn't
too worried about a relapse.
There are times when she feels
down, but believes she can get
help from her support network of
family and friends.
"There are times I feel I'm
weird or a freak and no one un-
derstands me," she said. "But
then you see yourself functioning
and it helps normalize things.
"We shouldn't be looked at as
people who cannot function," she
said. "We hurt, laugh, play jokes
and care about others just like
anyone else would." 0

L

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