Sadly, one of my first tendencies as a schizophrenic was to isolate. I moved into my own apartment in South Saint Louis, and spent about 99% of my time alone. Much of that time was devoted to creative pursuits. It doesn’t take a genius to see, though, that, already being a bit eccentric, I slowly slid away from normalcy.
Steadying influences included my family, and my job. Even volunteering once a week was helpful. When I moved on to working part-time, my contact with the everyday world, though awkward and stressful at times, was very helpful.
A movement has happened where lots of mentally ill people are assembled together in a “day program” environment. I tried that out, for a period of time. But– who’s to say that, just because people share the same or similar diagnoses, that they will get along well together? It may be that, at times, they might navigate one another further and further from what is called sanity.
On the other hand, a movement has happened where mentally ill people are treated as being almost completely independent. They live alone, shop for groceries, and so forth (as I generally did). How often is it, then, that the sufferer lapses into isolation, possibly watching endless hours of television, smoking pack after pack of cigarettes?
My most helpful contacts were with sane people. From them, I re-learned some of the language of real life. But, are sane people willing to walk side-by-side with the mentally ill? Would that frighten them? Offend them?
Some might suggest that it is already the case– that society is sick enough, and contains enough sick people, that the world is like one big outpatient clinic.
A friend shared with me that there are sociologists (such as Hartmut Rosa) who see essential flaws in modernity– that the pace of life has accelerated to the degree that most people are simply unable to cope. Stress is a huge problem in our society– with its mental, emotional and physical effects. Further, my wife and I often discuss how often it is nowadays that a friend or acquaintance admits to being depressed, maybe having a bi-polar condition. I would guess that a larger amount of the population takes anti-depressant medication than most people realize.