DISABILITIES

www.danieljvance.com


By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPC, NCC


My featured person this week, Margery Wakefield, of Lansing, Michigan, has had lifelong struggles with schizophrenia, a mental health disability. For now, primarily due to medication she began taking in 1995, she is winning this highly personal battle. She also has been helping thousands of people nationwide cope with schizophrenia-related disorders.

I'd had symptoms of schizophrenia since the age of seven, including visual/aural hallucinations, before being diagnosed at age 19,” said 66-year-old Wakefield. “I grew up in an isolated part of the country, where nobody knew what was going on, including me, my teachers, or parents. Then at age 19 in 1966 I went to London (England) to study piano and when there I had a major psychotic break. I lost complete touch with reality. I couldn't see or hear anything around me. I was in a fog.”

Her piano teacher put her on the first plane to the U.S., where she was hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia. The National Institute of Mental Health defines schizophrenia as a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder. It affects one person in a hundred.

From 1966-95, she would be hospitalized more than 60 times, mostly in Florida, her residence for much of that time. She hasn't had any major psychotic breaks since 1995, which she attributed to improved medication.

Over the years, she earned a master's degree in social work, and even with symptoms was still able to work in that profession, serving seniors. She also was a caregiver for 17 years.

Today, she has a car, an apartment, and is writing her seventh book. She works part-time for SARDAA (Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America) and helps oversee nationally nearly 70 Schizophrenics Anonymous (SA) chapters, which serve people with any psychotic disorder.

She said, “I set up SA groups and network with and give support to hundreds of people with schizophrenia and their family members over the telephone or through email. I also produce a newsletter for SA group leaders and members. I'm very dedicated to the cause of organizing SA groups, speaking in public about schizophrenia, and trying to eliminate this horrible stigma schizophrenia carries—because we don't deserve it.”

Schizophrenics are more likely to hurt themselves than others, she said.

She said SA groups provide an informal six-step program, which can include open talk, feedback, support, and fun events, such as pizza or movie nights, picnics, talent shows, and holiday parties.

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