Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Mera Peak Funding Appeal

Promoting Positive Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a very destructive condition. Often, recovery is thought as 'near' impossible. A very high percentage of those diagnosed with schizophrenia are unable to work or live life without torment due to the demoralising and destructive symptoms. The mistreatment and management of the symptoms and the stigma and discrimination towards those who are diagnosed can be just as destructive as the disease itself.

Stuart Baker-Brown, a campaigner and activist for greater understanding and treatment towards schizophrenia was diagnosed with the disease in 1996. For many years he has been promoting his own positive recovery to inspire and offer hope to all those who share his diagnosis.

Mera Peak Challenge

In October 2008, Stuart will visit Nepal and attempt to get to the summit of Mera Peak 6500m. Mera Peak is very achievable for 'strong trekkers' and the capabilities of summiting without experienced mountaineering skills are high. Stuart has visited Nepal before and has successfully completed a trek to Everest Base Camp. He has already tried to summit Mera Peak in march 2006 but weather conditions were severe and so the challenge had to be abandoned. His achievements and story of recovery has been covered in the media.

We need your support

In order for Stuart to get to Mera Peak he needs to raise £3000. Stuart hopes that his potential summit will help to inspire the 51 million people around the world who are diagnosed with schizophrenia on their own personal journey of recovery. Stuart's own achievements and recovery has already helped many. Please donate generously and support Stuart's attempt to reach even 'greater heights' and send a very positive message of 'hope' to all those diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Please donate generously. You can make a donation via the One Mans Mountain website or contact Stuart Baker-Brown directly at-15 Acreman Street, Cerne Abbas, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 7JX.

With your valued support and kind donation, Stuart can continue to inspire those who need a 'ray of light' in the demoralising and misunderstood world of schizophrenia.

Please help us make this attempt possible and help many on their own journey of recovery! To promote positive schizophrenia.

With our greatest thanks to you all.

Stuart Baker-Brown and the One Mans Mountain Team.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Perfect Gift

It’s here. It has arrived. The new 2008 calendar by Philippa King is out NOW!

But hold your horses! There is no need to go rushing off to get your hat and coat! You can buy the calendar right here, online, in the comfort of your own home, from Lulu. (Preview available)

What’s more, you’ll be helping to raise money for Mind, the leading Mental Health charity in England and Wales, as £1 from every calendar sold will be donated to this charity.

What better way to raise awareness, raise money, and raise a smile, all at the same time?

For those who are unsure about ordering from Lulu, having received my calendar today, I can now confirm that the quality of the calendar is excellent. It is printed on to thick glossy paper, and it arrived undamaged and very well protected, packaged inside a box. Even my postman couldn’t harm it! (Although he always tries – he likes throwing our parcels over our 6 foot gate onto a concrete path) From the date of dispatch it has taken 2 weeks for it to arrive from the US to the UK.

If, like me, you are a fan of Philippa’s work, she now has an online gift shop with items ranging from T-shirts to greetings cards. Take a look here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Truth Revealed

Continued from "The First Three Weeks"
End of June 2002

It was a Thursday. A bed had become available for Mr Man on the Acute ward in the Psychiatric hospital. The decision was made to move him from one hospital to the other during the afternoon and a member of staff took him in a taxi. I wasn’t allowed to visit him until the evening during the usual visiting hours. I know this may seem reasonable to most, but for the first time I felt completely excluded from Mr Mans care.

It wasn’t just my own feelings I was concerned about though; Mr Man had relied on my support through every step – we had been inseparable for months leading up to his admission. I had been with Mr Man at every appointment; every team meeting; and I had been with him during the whole admission process when he was first admitted. Now suddenly he was being moved to an unfamiliar building, with different patients, different staff, and different rules, and he had no one for support. He was alone. I was angry about this; an emotion I became very familiar with over the following months. I felt like we were being kept apart like naughty school children.

At least because this was a psychiatric hospital with no need for fancy electrical equipment Mr Man and the other patients were allowed to carry mobile phones, so we were able to keep in regular contact. I felt more at ease knowing that at any time of the day or night Mr Man could ring me if he felt he needed to.

I went to the hospital that evening to visit him. “Visitors please report to the office” read the sign on the door. I didn’t have to do this at the other hospital as most of the time the entrance to the ward was locked and a member of staff had to let you in. Despite the inconvenience of this to the members of staff there they still managed to greet the visitors with a smile.

I walked in and knocked on the office door. A stony faced woman swung the door open and stood looking at me without a word, waiting for an explanation for my being there. I was a little taken aback by this cold greeting. Looking back I can see now that the staff were so disinterested in the patients that they hardly knew who was a patient and who was a visitor, and so treated everyone with the same level of contempt.

I was led to the garden where Mr Man was sitting on a bench, nervously rocking backwards and forwards. It was a beautiful sunny day. I cuddled up to him and we held hands, hardly knowing what to say to each other. This was a very stressful day for Mr Man; not only had he been moved from one hospital to another and denied the support of his wife, but also I was leaving that evening to go to the convention city for three nights. I would have felt guilty for leaving him at any time, but after such an unsettling day I felt worse. But it was “doctors orders” so to speak; after realising I had been on suicide watch for many months she insisted that I needed a break away. The hotel was booked, and my room mate was now depending on me for transport.

It was then that he told me.

“They’re watching me all the time. There are cameras’ everywhere”

In that moment I knew he was suffering from something more than severe depression, but I had no idea what; I just knew it was serious. He was so scared; he really believed what he was saying was true. I didn’t know what to say; I had never dealt with anything like this before in my life, but somehow I felt it was wrong to just dismiss his beliefs, brushing his feelings aside, and to tell him it was untrue. On the other hand I couldn’t confirm it either.

“How long have you felt like this for?” I eventually asked him.

He had felt that way for years but had felt unable to tell me. I left that evening feeling completely shell shocked. I didn’t know what I felt. I was numb. I was confused. Should I really be leaving him?

"There Are Cameras Everywhere" by Philippa King

I drove to Coventry city, chatting with my companion as I drove, but all the while with my conversation with Mr Man in the back of my mind. How we ever got there alive I’ll never know. I negotiated the ring road with only two months of qualified driving experience and my head still spinning from the bomb shell he had dropped on me before I left.

I had only taken my test because I knew that it was a possibility that Mr Man could be admitted into hospital at some point. I didn’t have time to mess about; I booked my test and then rang the driving instructor and told him I had 6 weeks until my test. He was brilliant and thankfully I passed first time. About 5 weeks after I had passed Mr Man was admitted into hospital. I don’t know how I could have supported him and visited him every day without being able to drive.

My companion and I met up with a couple of acquaintances once we had reached the hotel. The four of us ate together for the next three days but I had little to say. My conversation with Mr Man just went round and round in my mind. My companions were of an older generation and didn’t really understand mental health issues, but after losing three husbands to ill health my room mate was sympathetic to the strain of having a husband in hospital, especially at such a “young age” as she put it. It was difficult not having anyone to discuss my fears with and knowing that no one could really understand what Mr Man and I were going through though.

At the convention on the Saturday I bumped into an old friend who had previously suffered from a nervous breakdown after her husband had left, and had spent some time in a psychiatric ward herself. She asked me how Mr Man was doing and the truth poured out from me as I broke down in tears for the first time. At last – someone I could talk to who would really understand. She said to me “You must watch the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’. It’s all about a man with Schizophrenia”. I didn’t understand what she was trying to say to me, but I made a mental note of the film; her film choices were usually good.

I was exhausted when I returned to my home town on Sunday evening, but I couldn’t wait to see Mr Man again. I don’t remember much of my visit, only that the atmosphere on the ward didn’t ever feel “right”, but I couldn’t put my finger on the reason why. At the time I tried to put my uneasiness down to the people and surroundings being unfamiliar to me.

On the Monday my hairdresser friend came to my house to cut my hair. She also asked how Mr Man was and I told her what he had said about being watched all the time. “Do you think he has Schizophrenia?” she asked. She was the second person to mention this illness to me. I needed to find out what it was.

I did an internet search and found that there were four main symptoms* of Schizophrenia. They were (in their most simplistic form):

Delusional thoughts. Commonly thoughts of being persecuted or being watched. This had been confirmed by Mr Man just four days earlier.
A flattening effect. Lack of emotional expression, including facial expressions, tone of voice, and eye contact. This I had witnessed myself in the months leading up to his admission.
Negative symptoms. Being withdrawn and lacking motivation to even care for ones own physical needs. Again, something I had witnessed during the previous months.
Hallucinations. Most commonly, hearing voices. This was the only box I couldn’t tick; I didn’t know whether he was hearing voices or not.

I knew I had to ask him.

When I visited Mr Man that evening we sat in the “quiet room” together. He looked around the room nervously. The smoke detector was a camera; the plane flying overhead was watching too. I had never seen him looking so frightened and anxious.

“Do you hear voices?” I asked him softly as I held his hand. He nodded.

I tried not to ever confirm or deny their existence; I only asked questions to help me to understand what he was experiencing. Bit by bit the whole frightening truth came out. He didn’t tell me about the voices before because he was scared; they told him not to tell or they would hurt me. They used to help him write computer programs but now they were trying to steal his ideas from him. They were sending beams to steal his thoughts, and projecting holograms which spoke to him.

"Thought Theft" by Philippa King

I knew then. I knew. But the “educated ones” weren’t as easily convinced.

*Although this is what I had read at the time, Schizophrenia is a complex condition and should be properly diagnosed by a person qualified to do so. More information on symptoms can be found here.

Next post: Dark Days