Editorís comment: Cannonier is a contributor that I have not personally met but hope to some day in the future. He has written a narrative that speaks volumes about daily events and how they can be colored with the invasive effects of his condition. As the parent of a daughter with a diagnosis, I find it worthwhile to catch glimpses of how people with schizophrenia experience their world. The single biggest difficulty that we encounter from the public in general is that of lack of insight into the challenges that are presented to those with schizophrenia. When I have explained my daughterís condition by describing what she experiences; More often than not, people respond by telling me that they never really thought of it that way. At that point they usually express some degree of compassion for her plight. It makes a difference in how people look at their fellow man. Here is an opportunity to see Cannonierís world though his mindís eye.
Authorís comment: Cannonier was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1984 at age 30 while serving as a captain in the United States Army. His specialties were Field Artillery and Nuclear Weapons. Due to schizophrenia, Cannonier retired from the army. He went back to college and got a computer science degree and began working as a professional computer programmer. He worked successfully at this profession from January 1987 to November 2004 when the stress of working became too much for him. Cannonier has not had a psychotic break since 1991. The following is what a typical day in his life was like while working.
"A Day in My Life"
The alarm is ringing. I get up groggily to shut it off. I ask myself for the millionth time, when I canít sleep is it better to take the sleeping pill and be hung over or just be sleepy from lack of sleep? I take my morning medications. I shower and shave. I get dressed. No breakfast, canít eat for an hour after meds. It is off to work, the daily commute.
I arrive at my desk at 10 till 8. I check my voice mail. The boss wants to see me now!!! He has a new hot priority project. It is an ad-hoc report, that one of the vice-presidents has suddenly expressed interest in. It is Tuesday he wants it no later than Friday. Discussing it with the boss shows that it will be a fairly simple program with a sort. It needs to read in the journal transactions for the company and spit out a report showing the detail transactions with a total for each account. I go back to my desk and start writing Cobol Code. It quickly becomes obvious that the report will not fit across a single page of paper because there is too much information on a line. A quick call to the business analyst reveals that they must have all the info. I suggest two detail lines for each transaction. He balks, but eventually realizes there is no better solution. I return to my coding.
By 10:30 I have a sample report to show my boss. He approves the report and we call the business analyst. He says it looks fine, but he wants a different header on the report. Also he feels that any account with less than $5,000 is not enough to worry about and he doesnít want to see them on the report.
While this discussion is going on I become aware of a whispered conversation about me coming from the adjacent cube. It quickly becomes obvious that this conversation couldnít be real. It must be my voices. I have lost my place in the conversation. It ends. I get my boss to summarize the new requirements so I can cover for being distracted by my voices. Neither he nor my coworkers know that I am schizophrenic. It quickly becomes obvious that once again we have given the client exactly what he asked for, but naturally this isnít what he wanted.
I head back to my cube to write a new set of programs. Due to the new requirements, it will take two much more complex programs to produce the report. On my way back, a woman I have seen but donít know says "Hello Darrell." How did she know my name? What does she know about me? Stop!! You donít have time for paranoia; there is work to be done.
Eleven-thirty lunch time and I have to make my monthly visit to my doctor today. In the car, a quick drive to McDonaldís drive through. Eat a sandwich while I complete my drive to the doctorís. As usual he is on time. We spend 15 minutes discussing how things are going and he writes me new prescriptions. I make an appointment for next month. I drive back to the office. I am back at my desk at 12:40. We only get an hour for lunch. Did anybody notice I was late?
Back to the programming. The phone rings. It is production control. A job has gone down. A quick check shows that it is a server problem. I call the support center to open a ticket to fix the server. Back to the programming. I hear another whispered conversation down the hall. Ignore it; they canít be talking about me.
By 4:00 I have the programs written and debugged. Back to the boss. He looks it over and says it looks good. Call the business analyst. He looks it over and approves. He wants the same report for all companies in group 1, and can he have it tomorrow. We agree. My boss says "Thanks! You are my best programmer and fast too!"
Five oíclock and quitting time. Time to think about supper. One of the nice things about being a programmer is that I am well paid. I feel like celebrating a bit because I did a tough job well. I eat out almost every night because I hate cooking for one. Tonight I want a filet mignon with mushrooms and a baked potato. After a good meal at the steakhouse it is back to my nice two-bedroom townhouse.
I walk into the living room and turn on my stereo. I put on the Rippingtons. I sit down at my PC and check AOL for e-mail. Then it is off to www.schizophrenia.com to see what is new. Hmmm, another kid doing a term paper that wants all the answers handed to him. An interesting and informative post by the site psychiatrist. After I finish the posts it is time to check on the chat rooms. Hmmm, no one is here yet. I go in anyway and wait for someone to show. Hi "friend", howís the music business? Hello "friend2", what is new with you? Hmmm, a new friend, "friend3". Hello friend3", welcome to the best schizophrenia site in the world. How can we help you? "Friend3" says her son was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia and after three months in the hospital he is coming home. He is 15. She is concerned about schooling for him. She wrote a local special school that specializes in mental patients. She asked them how many of their students go on to college. She was told to be realistic and to realize her sonís potential. She wants to know what is possible. He wants to be a computer programmer writing computer games. What can she tell her son? Tell him that you met a professional programmer who is schizophrenic and works full time. He got his degree in computer science after being diagnosed as schizophrenic.
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