Before and after our visit to the shaman, Chris attended a daily outpatient program for young people with mental health problems. He was an enigma to the staff. During our monthly meetings with his doctor, it was difficult to convince him to lower Chris’s medications because Chris’s “clinical” presentation was so poor. Chris was fairly happy and moderately talkative at home, but assumed the role of a mental patient at the program.
My exasperation sometimes spilled over. “Chris, can’t you just fake it for once?” I would complain. “Dr. ‘L’ holds the keys to the insane asylum. You need his blessing to get him off my back and agree to lower the medications. He is GO. You have to pass GO to collect the two hundred dollars. Get it?”
No, Chris didn’t get it. He appeared not to be able to fake his way out of whatever it was that was keeping him labeled “hopeless” at the program. Dr. ‘L’ told us in our next meeting that the staff were instructed to treat Chris especially gently. He obviously considered Chris a “nut case,” although he didn’t use that word. Instead, he said that he and the other doctors thought Chris was very bright, but they just didn’t know what the problem was. He pointed out that Chris had difficulty using scissors to cut paper during art therapy. “But, you know,” said Dr. ‘L’ earnestly, “we are amazed he is very good in acting class.”
I realized that I didn’t care any more what kind of clinical impression Chris gave. Maybe the clinic was the problem, I thought. True, it didn’t look good not to be able to cut paper, but then why was Chris able to do these things and more at home? He could quite dexterously handle tools to help fix things around the house. Maybe there was something wrong with having to perform for others at a clinic, to be judged by those around you, and to be compared to an apple when you are an orange, or maybe even a grape. Whatever the clinic was doing, it wasn’t doing it for me or for Chris. I had seen enough by then to realize that inside an institution was possibly the last place anyone would get well.
I had internalized some messages that now guided my thinking. Message number one (from Dr. Hoffer): Nobody who relies on drugs alone will ever get well. Message number two (from Dr. Klinghardt): The root of schizophrenia is often found at the fourth (intuitive) level of healing; if the problem doesn’t clear with therapies aimed at the first (physical) level, look to level four.
Dr. ‘L’ suggested that we read Waiting for Godot, as Chris reminded him of that play. It was easy enough to see why—the meaninglessness, indecisiveness, and inertness in the play mirrored Chris’s existence. Thereafter, for a brief period, Ian and I enlivened our lives, which had become confined to our couch, our television, and a nightly bottle of red wine, with a little play acting. We certainly appreciated where Dr. ‘L’ was coming from on this one. Ian assigned everybody roles. Taylor was Pozzo; Chris was Vladimir; Ian, Estragon; and I was the narrator. Chris read his part like a seasoned professional. He stepped outside of himself for once. His face took on an enthusiasm and a flourish. The play was the thing for him.
After spending several evenings on Waiting for Godot, we switched to poetry readings. Each of us read a favorite poem. Chris, in a clear and confident voice, with evident feeling and from memory, immediately volunteered this poem by Robert Frost:
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
(Fire and Ice by Robert Frost)
I recognize this poem as a very appealing to a schizophrenic sensibility. Fire/ice, love/hate. Ambivalence and death with a dollop of guilt thrown in.
We had informally approached Level 4 through our play reading and poetry. I saw the positive effect this had on Chris. More of this approach was needed to appeal to what was going on in his mind. We had done all we could at the base level of vitamins and electromagnetic interventions. We had yet to approach level 4 formally through therapy.