Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stalking Irish Madness

"Stalking Irish Madness" by Patrick Tracey is subtitled, "Searching for the Roots of My Family's Schizophrenia". I finished reading "Manic, A Memoir" by Terri Cheney this morning. Her madness is bipolar disorder, which she calls mental illness. Reading Tracey's accounts of his grandmother's slide into schizophrenia, and later his accounts of his older sister's descent, I wonder if they had been misdiagnosed, because they are so like Cheney's own accounts of her mania and depressions. The sister, Tracey says was later given the dual diagnosis of bipolar.
Tracey says "Chelle was never discriminating, as likely to engage a street tramp in conversation as a literary know-it-all, and her generous nature made her an easy touch for New York's desperate beggars."

Living in London he drinks to forget. "People swayed in the dark, lampposts caught me, and the demented sprites of schizophrenia flitted into view everywhere I went. In nameless cities they lived in crumpled heaps on flattened cardboard boxes, rummaging through the the rubbish bin for food, the decrepit souls rising up for spare change like bodies floating up from the bog."

Tracey's search for the roots of his family madness takes him to Ireland and "Stalking Irish Madness" is rich in Irish history. "Fear of spreading the contagion forced homeless families on their way out of Ireland to sleep in barns or freeze outside."

In Dublin: "Schizophrenics, who slip through the cracks these days sleep with the homeless Poles in Phoenix Park, or somehow find their way to a clean bed in the St. Vincent de Paul night shelter." Sounds much like Long Beach.

I assume, "...she tells us about her old camp the other side of Boston's commuter rail tracks, drinking rotgut vodka, made locally in Sommerville.", means is "she was homeless". She now lives on Social Security due to "depression and anxiety".

In Dublin, "A homeless man sleeping on the streets produces a ringing phone from his grubby coat, beneath his even grubbier sleeping bag."

During Tracey's investigation into schizophrenia that plagues his family, he writes about the Rosscommon Family Study. The study had to do with a defective gene passed down from one generation to the next that may predispose some to schizophrenia. He says "The study went on for years and received some $50 million in funding from the United States, a largess not otherwise available in a small country like Ireland."

50 million dollars seems an astronomical number to me. My own tax contribution to that amount was nil, yet I think of all those days struggling to make ends meet. I think of all those, today, that are affected by our worsening economy. Our national debt is in the trillions, so how was that $50 million gift justified?

Tracey attends a Hearing Voices Network workshop. Peter Bullimore says "Nobody has ever been 'cured' by medication. Most people get by without it." That answered a question about me that I have been mulling upon recently.
Dr. Francis White is quoted as saying: "Destitution itself was no frequent cause of madness. And in many instances, it would seem that insanity arising from starvation was a mere prelude to death."

Great Britain Royalty and greed, may have contributed to "Irish Madness" through their greed. There is enough to go around all over the globe, so rather than spend on studying the DNA in an effort to conquer schizophrenia, would it be more effective to prevent "destitution" and "starvation" (and war) that leads to mental instability?

Today's Ireland sounds much like the U.S.A. with cellphones, laptops, computer cafes or coffee shops and the mix of people. Tracey describes Roscommon's newly found multiculturalism: inhabitants include Brazilians, Poles, Lithuanians, Estonians, Syrians, Pakistanis, Russians and Filipinos." Some things never change; the original inhabitants of Roscommon, which Tracey's Irish ancestors once lived, were also emigrants from other lands. Tracey tells of a newspaper account where a farmer attacked a Pakistani, mistaking him for Osama Bin Laden. I thought the reports in the U.S. of attacks on people thought to be Muslim terrorists was peculiar to our country after "9/11". 12/08/08

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