Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The boy whose gift became a curse

Daily Telegraph, 16 February 2009

Full story here

How does a child genius from a loving family fall into a spiral of mental illness, addiction and finally suicide?

... By the age of 22 he was psychotic, having hallucinations and hearing voices. It was on her 50th birthday that Clare suggested they write a book together, describing his life from their individual points of view. She thought that his unusual ability to describe his own thought processes might help others. Titus agreed to the plan, he said in his introduction, because: "I have to find a reason for why my life has been so abominably chaotic."

Titus did want to get better. In 2006, he spent eight months in rehab in Michigan, where he seemed to be almost back to his old self. Clare and Ed, Titus's father, were exhausted by worrying about their son, impoverished by paying his debts and the cost of rehab, and fearful that his voices were driving him to violence. But Clare was never angry, only sad that her son couldn't sustain the good resolutions with which he left rehab. Sick of feeling doped, he stopped the medication, and his voices returned.

On December 16, 2006, as his parents were driving across a bridge into Manhattan, he opened the back door of the car, dashed out and jumped to his death. His psychiatrist told Clare that he probably jumped in order to save her because the voices were urging him to kill.

As a tribute to Titus, Clare has finished the book they were writing together, which she has entitled A Dangerous Gift. It has been published in Iceland, where the high rate of bipolar disorder has led to rehab programmes with a 70 per cent success rate. Sufferers are shown how to look after themselves and avoid the addictions that lead one in four to commit suicide.

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