The story I tell in my memoir The Light in His Soul: Lessons from My Brother's Schizophrenia begins when my brother Call returned to our family in 1997 after a long absence. We would soon learn he was homeless much of the time.
When I reconnected with Call, I felt there was something different about him beyond his schizophrenia. I was always intrigued and curious about the voices he said he was hearing. One day I was driving and Call was in the passenger seat. He started laughing out loud and I asked him, what are you laughing about. He pointed out the window at some people who were standing on a corner and said," I'm laughing at what they're talking about? " Now, mind you, the windows were rolled up and we were wizzing by. There was no way we could have heard them. But I thought to myself, this is interesting. And my curiosity was engaged. I didn't think about the incident again until we started making a documentary about our experiences and Call sat for an interview. I asked him about the voices in his head: "Are they good or bad?"
He replied, "While I was living life on the road, a voice came over me and said, I'm going to have to take your mother away." Several weeks later, my mother died by suicide. He added, "Isn't that something? I never told Becky [his nickname for me], and in some way I feel guilty." I asked him, "Call, where do you think these voices are coming from?" He had no answer. But sometimes he would call me on the phone to tell me about conversations he was having with them. I never dismissed it. I felt drawn to understand more. I came to suspect his voices were not all hallucinations. Especially when he seemed calm and rational - not at all anxious, but very aware of being in the present moment - the messages these voices were giving him seemed authentic to me. Is is possible that people like Call have special sensory abilities? Can they hear voices of beings who exist in other dimensions? Do they exist in the worlds of energy that are invisible to the rest of us?
Of course, I'm guessing, but I imagine these extrasensory beings exist in a state of timelessness. Perhaps they don't know how to channel or express their messages in our time-based world other -- than through exceptional people like Call.
From what I've learned about schizophrenia, I understand that hearing voices is not uncommon. Our mother was also diagnosed with it. I found a letter she wrote to her psychiatrist: "I am going crazy. I hear voices and I don't know if they are real or not. Please don't take me away." Unfortunately, our society and our health-care system tend to treat people with schizophrenia as suffers with a disability that must be managed - along with unusual behaviors that must be mitigated or minimized. True, some of the symptoms and effects of the disease are disabling and make it difficult for the person to function in our world. But I'm still wondering what wisdom we might yet find if we are willing to accept the notion that these people can bring us unusual and unexpected insights. So, beyond managing their everyday behavior, I propose we approach people with this illness with a newly receptive mindset:
● Be compassionate
● Tell them, "As a family member/caregiver/friend, I care and love you, and I am here to stand by your side."
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