By Shane Leah
Key Themes: schizophrenia, autobiography, drug use, adolesence, nineties
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The symptoms of schizophrenia are rooted in the heart. By and large, it is a state of mind caused by the negativity of influences and forces greater than the patients will to power. This biographical novel is a journey of the mind through the embittered struggle of my teens and twenties and is a reflection on my loss of innocence.
My early childhood was a happy one. I had two wonderful parents who loved me and my two brothers and sister (later to become two) dearly and we grew up in relative comfort and safety in a more stable environment than you would of expected. I certainly had no real reason to follow the path I set out upon as a teenager. I did however have an excuse. My parents separated when I was eight, later getting divorced about a year later and I have to say it was a selfish decision, as the marriage was probably worth saving… Regardless of this they maintained their commitment to us children and they continue to love us to this day. In all honesty I cannot criticise them for their decision, as it gave us children more freedom than we could have ever used - maybe too much in my case, as events would transpire.
I was never witness or victim of any kind of abuse as a young child, be it serious or just domestic. Our family and those of the neighbours around the housing estate we lived on were average and stable, though the teenagers often rebelled against their teachings and better learning by using drink and drugs and becoming involved in petty crime. The group of friends I belonged to all of the same age group often followed them around or watched their movements in an effort to learn what it meant to be an adult. In hindsight I can see each generation is pretty much the same between the ages of thirteen to twenty five, when they have to learn the laws of society while pushing the boundaries of how much fun they can have. I should have watched and learned more. I suppose I had no recognition of the dangers of the world at that age, though the lessons I was to learn myself were all there around me if I had just opened my eyes and took note of the actions of those teenagers I knew.
We moved house in the winter of ‘91, to another street not far away to escape the trouble brewing on the estate we lived as families began falling apart through death or divorce and their children began expressing their anger and frustration. Their powerlessness to control their security and happiness resulted in small scale confrontations with the police and an explosion of drug abuse and misuse on the streets of home. Even television report actively encouraged the challenging authority and the individual rights of the new generation, who wanted an alternative to the home and family which had failed them. Drugs and music seemed the answer. Thus the nineties were bore out of this ‘hash’ of young ideas and the inability of the society we lived in to hold itself together cohesively within the myths of the older generation. That is love, career, home and family. All of which you must be privileged to be part of in my generation. We needn’t of bothered running, it caught up with me and my older brother soon enough.
Our new home was in a part of town occupied by large families of four children or more. Some had as many as twelve and though poverty was an issue, neglect was even more prevalent; but we settled in and began making a new life for ourselves. My mother made some new friends and so did we; my siblings and I. Soon I was dating girls and staying out late with my older brother, smoking and drinking cheap beer. The good times rolled on for about a year as we experimented with sex and drink and cigarettes. I became interested in music and started playing guitar on a Friday at a neighbour’s house and I progressed onto vodka - these were the good times. But soon I was to experiment with the dirge of my life and the one thing I could have avoided and saved myself the trouble of being abused at the hands of my supply, Cannabis. Thing is, having started I never looked back until I was twenty five and only by then could I see what effect it had on my life.
My first experience of drugs was a shady one that I soon got used to. We (my friends and I), were riding a ‘borrowed’ motorcycle round an old abandoned road near some wasteland known as ‘Jacks Wood,’ when a young homeless boy of about eighteen approached us from some bushes and threatened to ‘mess up’ one of my friends. My friends knew him it seemed as someone with mental problems as he was positively schizophrenic in his attitude towards us first threatening us then asking how we were and what we were up to, before turning on us again and attempting to steal our motorcycle.
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