By Zekria Ibrahimi
Key Themes: schizophrenia, mental health services, ethnicity, relationships
This is a journey into schizophrenia,
Into the core and heart of it,
And the aim is that ….
The reader should never find his way out again ….
It is a book as a trap,
For you who call yourselves sane,
Perhaps need to be caught in the necessary snare that is madness …
About the Author
Zekria Ibrahimi (born in 1959) is defined by his schizophrenia. It first hit him long ago, in his late teens. He is fifty years old now, almost a pensioner, and he does not always want to remember how, as an adolescent in the late 1970's, he suddenly became afraid of everything surrounding him, and, worst of all, of himself. He would run around the countryside and knock at the doors of strangers because he feared the apocalypse was pursuing him ... He would pick up rubbish outside in alleys and streets and hoard it in his not very palatial lodgings ... He was always wandering away from home, searching for ... what would never be found again ... the straight route, the level way ... He was a tramp, freezing during the nights in public toilets where he had various unsavoury insects as company on the cold concrete
There were years of pain when his schizophrenia became almost his only companion- albeit a sadistic one, punishing him even as he hugged it. Perhaps, to echo both R. D. Laing and Emily Dickinson, it is the entire globe, it is general society, that is truly insane. Schizophrenics simply burrow all too deeply under the surface. They reach the very core of the savage reality in us all. Most varnish over the anarchic truth within through the superficial sham paraded as 'civilization'. Schizophrenics prefer to be uncomfortably honest barbarians.
Eventually, after much psychotic shouting on Hammersmith Broadway, the hapless Zekria was confined at the Charing Cross unit in the West London Mental Health Trust. Following the unsafe unstable freedom of his schizophrenia, came the restrictions of Section 3. He would not have survived without the multi- racial compassion of the individual doctors and nurses in Charing Cross. Yet the overall SYSTEM remains an ogre of rules and restraints, and the INSTITUTION of psychiatry can be as cold and vicious as in the days of lobotomy and insulin shock.
Now he is elderly, but still he muses about being locked up, drugged up, about how, with schizophrenia, the treatment can be worse than the disease ...
MADNESS AND REBELLION- A TRIPTYCH is an inevitably bleak and savage essay on schizophrenia that could not have been commenced without the research materials provided at the Coombs Library, West London Mental Health Trust, Southall, and the Institut Francais Mediatheque, Kensington. And it would not have been completed lacking the computer and editing expertise of Jenny and Joseph Hemmings, operating from their distant literary den in Norfolk!
Here is the biography of a schizophrenic, or someone who has been diagnosed and stigmatised as a schizophrenic, Alice Baker. She is middle aged, West Indian by descent, a victim under an often uncaring psychiatric system that is all about lifeless, frigid, tyrannical science almost preferring to lack any heart within. The problem is institutional; it is ingrained into the history and culture, the overall atmosphere of the psychiatric establishment. Of course, Alice could not cope without the individual compassion of doctors, social workers, medics, and nurses at Hammer House, her outpatient's clinic, and the Hillacre, her psychiatric hospital. She has regularly and willingly accepted her medication- for example, she took pimozide throughout the 1990’s. And she still wants to remain on a neuroleptic regime at the moment. Her biography, however, discusses, in a difficult surreal way, the ethical contradictions of forcing treatment upon a bewildered individual.
In this turbulent biography- or is it a sort of autobiography?- the nurses, CPN ‘Beanpole’, Captain Psychiatrist, the somewhat sadistic Heidi Ratgifter (!), and so on, are, of course, fictional; they are intended to be neither pleasant nor wholesome; they are monsters of steel - like malevolence under their fabricated and sham altruistic facade; these ogres represent how cold ‘objective’ psychiatric ‘care’ can so soon degenerate into a torture-machine when not tempered by human values. This story of a schizophrenic, which inevitably is not complete, not absolutely effective, is based on a disturbing ‘magic realism’, conveying the way perceptions may be altered through the fog and haze of mental illness. But are such perceptions, are the strange Dali-esque visions of the mad, any the less truthful? I myself am an elderly Asian, and a schizophrenic. For too long, we schizophrenics have not been allowed our own voice, have been discussed by others with aloof professional contempt as a medical dilemma. Why should grey text books and dull academic theories alone define, in perhaps deliberately boring terms, what we are- paranoid, or catatonic, or schizoid? Our emotions, our passions, our doomed excitement, are never sympathetically described. We are ignored. We are mute.
I am exploring, with much fear and unavoidable weakness, the dangerous labyrinth that is the modern Mental Health Act, and also the deplorable 'epic' past of the mentally ill, which included the terrors of incarceration, the huge Gothic Victorian asylums, and, eventually, the Holocaust. So cruelly, the mentally ill were the initial guinea pigs for the mass extermination carried out by the Nazis. This book proves to be an unhappy journey from Bedlam to Auschwitz. Even today, very many mental hospitals have the ambience of a concentration camp.
We are afraid that schizophrenia as seen, as experienced, by us schizophrenics ourselves is never going to be published. While we remain passive, and do not ennoble and empower our own ‘madness’, we can never be free.
What Alice represents, what she is, must be the suffering of all psychiatric patients, across the agony of the centuries. She is Bedlam and she is Hadamar- the fetters, the bars, the walls - the crushing of an individual, a soul, into an impotent nobody.
Perhaps Alice is not a real person. Maybe the plight of her mental illness stole her reality from her. Or, possibly, it was the callous psychiatric process - the confinement of Sections 2 and 3 - that destroyed what had been solid actuality for her.
For we are dealing with a second Alice, an Alice in her own sorrowfully misunderstood 'wonderland' of what a dull and draconian SANITY condemns as delusions. She is bursting through the 'looking glass' of her unsafe yet cherished schizophrenia, she is entering a back to front kingdom where everything is gleefully incomprehensible, and she promptly confronts diverse sorts of gratuitously weird creatures. Some are conjured up within her own mind, her internal, eeriely tender dreams and nightmares. And some are all too concrete and real, constituting the bleak rules and laws, the even bleaker consultants and nurses, in a psychiatric system where false 'compassion' is only a euphemism for- the Jabberwocky of deadly control. With her, in the end, INSANITY, despite its numerous perils and problems, seems the rainbow equivalent of freedom.
Look! The white rabbit! He is babbling and senseless and illogical, and he is running, and running... Follow him! Follow him!
This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 17 March, 2009.