A. was the epitome of cool, down-to-earth, and laid-back. He became my Detroit Fair friend. Whenever there was a fair of some kind in Detroit, whether an art fair or music, food, etc, A. and I, and often other friends (he had a million), would hit the fairs. A. knew all about jazz, and blues, and art and music, and he had a lot of friends in the ‘biz.’ We’d walk down those streets, and every creative person around would say hi to him.
A. was (is? – we lost touch when I left Detroit) a playwright – but he didn’t know it until he developed Schizophrenia. At 40!
Now you know that my birth-mother was Schizophrenic, and had to live in a group home until the end of her life. You’ve also probably read me talk about her love, compassion, and high-level intelligence. But I had never met anyone who had developed Schizophrenia at a later age–and I had never known that someone with this illness could live such an exciting and cool life.
A lot of people think Schizophrenia is multiple personalities, but it’s not – that’s Multiple Personality Disorder. I might write more about symptoms in a later blog, but since that’s not what this blog is about – just look it up on Wikipedia or WebMD for now.
Studying Schizophrenia to learn about my mother is what made me interested in psychology in general. One of the coolest articles I read, and it was about 15 years ago, was about the link between Schizophrenia and Creativity.
Apparently, people with Schizophrenia have similar brain wave patterns to famous artists. It is thought that there are two possible paths that ones body can choose when you have this type of chemistry – the path towards Schizophrenia, or the path towards artistic-level Creativity. I doubt there’s a choice, but I don’t think it hurts that if you think you have a risk factor for Schizophrenia, to explore as much of the arts and to be as creative as possible!
A. didn’t know he was developing Schizophrenia until he was hospitalized with it. As soon as he got through his first major episode, he started writing. His plays were amazing. And being so artistic allowed his symptoms to be manageable and for him to live life in the mainstream.
This guy was a good friend to everyone, loyal and compassionate, and just so extremely cool. His illness didn’t define him – he allowed his creativity and his plays to do that.
What defines you?