- Latest Posts
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
Today I went to the funeral of a young 29 year old man who killed himself after nine years of fighting schizophrenia. He had Christian music playing in his car and a book by his pastor on the seat next to him. Until he went away to college he was "normal" and showed absolutely no signs of mental illness. He was a kid. Just a kid.
Schizophrenia is a disease that typically begins in early adulthood; between the ages of 15 and 25. Men tend to develop schizophrenia slightly earlier than women; whereas most males become ill between 16 and 25 years old, most females develop symptoms several years later, and the incidence in women is noticeably higher in women after age 30. The average age of onset is 18 in men and 25 in women. Signs often appear suddenly and without warning.
It was in college that the symptoms developed for the first time. He called his father and asked him how long his Dad had been in the Mafia and how long the chip had been implanted in his son's head. After that it was a lifetime of therapy for hallucinations, psychotic drugs with oftentimes terrifying side effects, extended stays in specialized facilities, family turmoil, isolation and paranoia. In the end, it was a losing battle and he ended his life alone in his car. It didn't matter to the family that their son had a 50 times higher risk of attempting suicide than the general population or that a full 60 percent of young men like their son attempt suicide at least once and that 13 percent are successful. But, those who suffer are far more likely to harm themselves than anyone else. News and entertainment media have linked schizophrenia and criminal violence when that is just not true. Most people with schizophrenia harm themselves and not others. But, somehow, the statistics and the grim preparation are not comforting. They do not make it easier to every day face the prospect of the phone call that comes far too often with the tragic news.
At the end of the service we were led in singing not a dirge but "I'll Fly Away". Nothing could have been more appropriate.
Some glad morning when this life is o'er,
I'll fly away;
To a home on God's celestial shore,
I'll fly away.
When the shadows of this life have gone,
I'll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I'll fly away.
He did..and so will we.Comments
In his short story, “The Rocking-Horse Winner” published in 1926, D.H. Lawrence describes a young Englishwoman who “has no luck”. Though she and her husband have expensive tastes, neither of them separately or together are able to stay out of the debt necessary to maintain their lifestyle. They are preoccupied by a sense of failure and as a result the house is permeated by an inaudible but palpable anxiety about the lack of enough money.
“And so the house came to be haunted by the unspoken phrase: There must be more money! There must be more money! The children could hear it all the time though nobody said it aloud. They heard it at Christmas, when the expensive and splendid toys filled the nursery. Behind the shining modern rocking-horse, behind the smart doll's house, a voice would start whispering: "There must be more money! There must be more money!" And the children would stop playing, to listen for a moment. They would look into each other's eyes, to see if they had all heard. And each one saw in the eyes of the other two that they too had heard. "There must be more money! There must be more money!"
By rocking madly on his horse , the young son Paul “hears” the names of the winners of a series of horse races and with his uncle placing bets he manages to provide money for his parents. But the voices in the house only increase as their lifestyle rises to outstrip their newfound wealth. In a final effort to discern the winner of the biggest race of the season, Paul literally rocks himself to a fever. But before he collapses he delivers the name – Malabar. The payoff is enormous but Paul never recovers. It cost him his life to quiet the voices in his head.
I read the story as a young teacher but then as a parent I began to think about the voices in our house. What were our own children hearing? It may not have been “more money” but maybe it was “more happiness” or “more respect” or “more importance” or more, more, more of something. Every house has these voices and the sooner we find and deal with them the healthier our children will be. Having worked with families now for many years, I know almost every household is haunted by some unspoken phrase that left unheeded will affect the children for their whole lives. The results may not be as drastic but they carry them forever.
What are the voices in your house?Comments
Part of my Dad's ability to communicate with people was his use of aphorisms. When I was a young man I thought he either read them, heard them from others or they just appeared spontaneously as he spoke. "Wait to worry", "Only criticize as much as the person can correct", and "It's unfortunate when money accumulates faster than wisdom" were among the hundreds of one-liners we heard growing up. I never thought about the real source of those one-liners until late in his life.
We were sorting through his papers and found a stock certificate for 100 shares that were practically worthless. They were all that was left of what had once been his retirement plan. He had worked for the company for years when he was young and had such confidence in the leadership, that he put virtually everything he had in the stock. All of his plans for retirement and his options for the present were based on his belief in that single corporation. For a time, it was well placed trust and the value soared over years. Then the leadership changed, the value evaporated and Dad was left with a future that was nothing like what he had planned.
I vaguely remember that period because it was about that time he started using a new aphorism, "Sit loose to things." As bad as it was, that disaster was also the beginning of the most productive period of his life. He and my mother moved to Texas and started a new business. He began to write books and spend more time with people as a mentor. In fact, over the next twenty years he made his most valuable contributions to the lives of others. That would never have been possible without the experience of his loss.
Now, when I look at my investments and am tempted to say with Peggy Lee, "Is that all there is?", I am reminded again to "sit loose to things" and know that this is not the end of the story for any of us.Comments