Bringing attention to mental illness

One of my favourite memories from growing up in the 1970s is of watching Robin Williams on the TV show Mork and Mindy.

Editor:

One of my favourite memories from growing up in the 1970s is of watching Robin Williams on the TV show Mork and Mindy.

I still remember noticing at the time, that other than saying “nanu nanu,” nobody could impersonate him. He broke the mould and was one of a kind.

I’ve heard people say they hope his passing will bring attention to the problem of mental illness. I hope so too.

Myself, by the time I had quit school and left home at 16, I had experienced every definable type of abuse there is. After several failed attempts at keeping a job because of drug addiction and several years living on the street, I finally went to detox and treatment. The battle didn’t end, though.

So, after losing my driver’s licence for five years, claiming bankruptcy and separating from my wife, I sought help again.

By the time I was 32 I had been to detox centres 11 times, treatment centres seven times and many shelters and recovery houses.

With all the 12 step meetings I had also been to, I estimate that I had been in various forms of treatment settings for about three years.

Then at the age of 32 I was diagnosed with a mental illness called schizophrenia and given a disability pension, that whether or not I need to claim it, I will have for the rest of my life.

I didn’t like the diagnosis but saw it as an opportunity to look at myself from different perspectives.

With the assistance of many caring doctors and social workers, I was able to piece together my life.

A couple of years ago, a doctor I was seeing told me I don’t have schizophrenia.

That he has more than a thousand patients and I’m one of his star patients. That I’m a success story and he doesn’t see many in his line of work.

Also, that I don’t need to see him anymore and if I want to keep taking the prescription meds, I can just go and get it filled by my family doctor.

You may be wondering what I think about all that. Honestly … I don’t know.

If I was to guess what I learned to be most important, from my life so far, it would probably be that there is always help and hope out there somewhere if you keep searching.

I dedicate this letter to Mork. Nanu Nanu.

Garth Verhaeghe

Williams Lake

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