Bill Macphee
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Bill MacPhee


Bill MacPhee

For Want of Better Handwriting

When I first learned about Bill it was while waiting in a psychiatristís lobby looking through the stacks of magazines. Among the usual waiting room fare was a brightly colored cover that instantly gained my attention because of the words Schizophrenia Digest that boldly graced its face.

Perhaps, I thought, this would provide the key to recovery for my daughter as there seemed to be a distinct lack of information aimed at the subject of schizophrenia for public consumption. Most of what referred to the disease was indeed scientific in nature or what professed to be introductory in its viewpoint. There was no lack of periodicals of complex investigation of GABA and COMT nor brochures that spoke of Ďgeneral symptomsí of schizophrenia. But here was a magazine dedicated to real stories of a more conversational nature about people who had encountered the disease and had survived and to some extent adapted and thrived despite its invasion into their lives.

Even more surprising was Billís story itself. Here was a person who had seemingly gone full-circle. Given what my daughter had encountered in her experience, how could someone with the same diagnosis seem to recover and not only return to active participation in everyday life, but gather recognition and honors from no less the Queen of England for service to his fellow countrymen?

When Bill presents his story, he is remarkable in his recollection of details of what I would refer to as "ah-ha" moments. Those are moments that may be seemingly inconsequential in nature, but represent real steps forward in following a path that leads out of the depth of madness to a return to function.

There is no way to predict that simply making a decision to improve your penmanship because you are examining the thought that someone once told you that "You will never amount to anything if other people cannot read your handwriting." will lead ultimately to creating a magazine. Making the decision to leave your motherís couch and embark on that journey set off a chain of events that lead to more choices, and eventually where he is today. Never mind that many people suffer from the inability to create cursive writing that looks presentable, and the statement that triggered Billís action could be considered to be lacking in credibility. It happened.

One of the miracles of recovery but also one of the greatest difficulties lies in discovering what chain of events or what circumstances will ultimately lead to the path that frees the person with a mental disease from its grip. More difficult yet is the explanation of why, given the amount of hospitalizations and medical treatment and therapy prior to this event, did this particular chain of events finally lead to a path that eventually brought Bill success in life. It is that strange mix of circumstance, treatment, and determination that somehow sparks a person to action that gains momentum and travels down an uneven path littered with setbacks but also inexorably comes to a place of well being.

But Billís story also gives me pause to examine some of the features of other stories that I have encountered. His onset was seemingly triggered by angst over his girlfriend becoming pregnant, and his pursuit of resolving that angst by examining the spiritual dimensions of his being. Hearing him describe the letters lifting from the pages of his Bible and the beginnings of his psychosis are remarkably similar to some otherís stories, but yet very dissimilar to many otherís stories of their condition. Some describe extremely different circumstances and seem to have no triggering event.

Whatever the path of his disease, Bill has experienced many of the things that those with schizophrenia have experienced. What makes his story uplifting is how he has turned his personal circumstances from despair to those of service to his fellow man. Along the way, he constructed a personal life and family to compliment his service to others. In the end, he has accomplished what many others seek to accomplish, participation in life on a day-to-day basis. It is hard to characterize recovery any better than that.

Bill's Story on the Digest Website

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Last modified: 05/25/08