Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tracing The Roots Of 'Irish Madness'

For more than five generations, Patrick Tracey's family has been plagued by what he calls "a perfect storm of schizophrenia." In his new book, Stalking Irish Madness, he traces his family lineage — and the roots of the disease — all the way back to Ireland.

.......... I'm here with my own hellish story of sorts, because I know of at least three ancestors who suffered — as two of my fifth-generation Irish American siblings do now — from schizophrenia, a savage psychosis for which there is no cure or effective treatment. Statistics reveal that one of every four people worldwide suffers from some type of mental illness — one in one hundred from schizophrenia, the most severe form, its victims typically tortured by voices and other hallucinations that give rise to bizarre and demented behavior.

NPR, USA, full story here

1 comment:

Patrick Tracey said...

Hi, thanks for posting my book here. I'm the author and I'd like to do anything I can to help your movement spread the word that the world needs to hear - to normalize the experience of hearing voices.

My new book, Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for the Roots of My Family's Schizophrenia, is a memoir/travelogue through Ireland to investigate the mystery of the voices that several members of my Irish-American family have heard, including two of my four siblings, Chelle and Austine.

I have to say that the big "takeaway" from Ireland for me, and this gets covered in the 16th chapter of my book, was finding the Hearing Voices Network in Galway. These people have the answer: There's nothing wrong with hearing voices. In fact, we all hear them in one form or another, whether in the first person or the third person. And the other pretty neat thing is that, because mental wellness is the same for all of us -- meaning it's just a matter of managing the voices in our heads -- then "sanity" is the same for all of us. For starters, it's about managing -- and therefore talking about -- the voices in a safe place, and on a regular basis, without fear of judgment or ridicule.

It does not matter if you are a "schizophrenic," like my two sisters, or just your bog standard recovering "alkie" like myself. We all have to manage the voices. Even the so-called normals of the world -- those dear sweet folks in deep denial -- need to manage the voice in their heads too. We all hear voices in one way or another. It matters less where they come from than how we greet them, treat them, manage them, and ultimately encourage the best voices of our nature.

The voices in my head told me that I should not write this book -- that I was throwing my sisters under the bus for the sake of an art project. But as one door after the next opened effortlessly, I felt that I was being led by the better angels of my nature and toward them I stepped.

My sisters loving acceptance of it-- especially Chelle's feeling that it validates her life by helping to normalize the experience of voice hearing -- has confirmed that I should disregard certain voices and lean toward the friendlier ones. What a revelation for me. What a simple solution: to tend our mental gardens each day by encouraging and listening to the kinder voices of our nature.

I'm not expert or great genius -- just a loving brother with a genuine interest -- but I do reckon that a lot of folks have trouble getting their heads around the concept of hearing voices because they are fixated on being bodies. I suspect that voice hearers are blessed, in a way, with a special attunement that may be slightly out of tune in the physical world. Doesn't mean we can't all get in tune . . .

The Hearing Voices Network, with an assist from the alcohol and drug recovery movement, gets big props for a movement that is revolutionizing psychiatry itself, simply by humanizing it. The Hearing Voices Network is truly making mental health history, which is history of the most important kind. This is why I sing their praises on my book tours, modest though it is so far.

Theirs is a beautiful answer in its elegant simplicity--that first-person voice hearer or third-person voice hearer, we're all in this crazy life together. We sink or swim together.
So it's time for the small people of the world (forgive me) stop the scoffing and begin to understand that the what the brightest biologists are telling us: that the organic brain (the computer) runs well to the extent that the the mind (the software, our thoughts) keeps things running smoothly. For starters, it means coming out of isolation to be able to talk freely. So send the troublesome voices on their sweet way with love and see them come back changed.

Don't even try to understand them - forgive them first because understanding always follows forgiveness. I myself have had it the other way around . . . but we're all heading back to the garden! So let's hit the hearing voices road together, eh? And let's have some fun!

Not to make light of serious matter, but if there is any way that I can be of service -- to the Hearing Voices Network movement or the twin Mad Pride Movement -- it would be a high privilege. So please don't hesitate to contact me through my web site. It may take a few days for me to get back, but no worries -- I will get back.

Until then,


Patrick Tracey