In light of the shocking passing of my uncle and processing my grief, I only wish to share my my final year Matric speech, was entirely a tribute to him and all the warriors out there.
“Look, look, there goes my mum and dad in the sky watching over us” he said, as a flock of birds moved overhead.
Good morning to Mrs Reddy and my fellow classmates and welcome to the mind of my very own schizophrenic uncle.
Now what may you ask is schizophrenia? If you guessed an overly complicated work with Greek origins then you would be correct. The first part comes from the Greek word “schzien” which means “to split” and the second part “phren” means “mind”, however despite a great misconception it has no relation to spilt personalities.
Schizophrenia is a diagnosed mental illness. The patient often has themselves questioning what is real. They also experience trouble thinking clearly, managing their emotions and functions as well as frequent hallucinations and delusions. It affects about 1% of the male population and is less common for females. It is not seen at birth but rather developed in late adolescence or early adulthood.
Throughout history people have feared what they did not understand, mental illness is a classic example of this. During the antiquity they believed that it was a punishment from god or some form of demonic possession , similarly the Greeks also believed that it was punishment from god , that is until the father of modern medicine( you might know him) Hippocrates came along. He believed that it was as a result of imbalance in the four bodily humours and could be cured with a healthy diet and even bloodletting (the removal of one’s blood for therapeutic purposes). He had once said “Only from the brain springs our pleasures, our feelings of happiness, laughter and jokes, our pain, our sorrows and tears … This same organ makes us mad or confused, inspires us with fear and anxiety”
Today thanks to modern medicine and great scientific breakthroughs we know that it results from an excess amounts of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which is a type of chemical that carries messages from the endings of one nerve cell to the nerve cell body of another. In the brain of a person who has schizophrenia, this messaging system does not work properly.
Over the years we have progressed as thinkers and moved past outrageous notions such as demonic possession and drilling into people’s heads, however even today we still have myths regarding mental illness. Commonly, due to the media’s influence we associate schizophrenics with violence, yet ironically research shows that those suffering from mental illness are more often the victims rather than the perpetrators of violence.
Truthfully, there is hope for them. With the right treatment and environment they can become functional and useful members of society. I have seen this first hand with my uncle who is a well-known and well- loved member of our community.
Surely there are times at 11PM when there is a man draped in nothing but a towel professing tales of sainthood but I believe that he is a blessing and I would not have it any other way. With him in my life it certainly boosts my level of tolerance and respect for mental illness and we do engage in some truly epic conversations.
I would like to end off with my uncle’s favourite question, however arbitrary it may seem: “when is the rain coming?
May Allah(SWT) grant him the highest stage in Jannah, and I hope he stays watching over me.