The Outsider by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
The Outsider by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
The outsider is a memoir written by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer, the son of a university professor Charles Lachenmeyer (Berger, 2003). He narrates how a mental disease, Schizophrenia, which has no known cure, robbed of his father; the disease was later realized to have cost him his career, sanity and later his family. Charles was a highly intelligent man with a promising career but died in absolute poverty. The author tries to reconstruct the events of his father’s death and the time his parents separated which was fourteen years back. Nathaniel realizes that his father had been hospitalized many times before his death, and this makes him try to retrace the latter period when they were not together. The divorce seemed to have greatly affected his father psychologically and perhaps to lead to his illness. He remembers how he, together with his parents cried when his mother told his father that she wanted to file for a divorce. No rational being would like to have imagined that their family was over. His mother seemed to have been disturbed by some psychological conditions resulting from his father, perhaps which she could not discuss with anybody. She could regularly get upset by the behavior of Charles, perhaps one of the reasons for the divorce (Berger, 2003, P.24). The author tries to evaluate his role and where he failed in a bid to rescue his father out of the situation. He describes his flaws and concludes that his arrogance, selfishness, and confusion that made him cut communication could have played a big role in causing his father’s homelessness and finally death. It makes him sadder when he realizes that his father died while living in the streets.
In writing up his book “A journey into my father’s struggle with madness,” Nathaniel gathers information from many sources, especially people who had close contact with his father before his death. He gets a report from the police, mental hospitals in New Hampshire and Vermont, relatives, professors and food providers near the streets where his father lived before death. He does this following the little firsthand interaction with his father. The distance between the father and the son has always made many readers speculate on the possible events resulting to it.
In this book, he tries to analyze and speculate what his father could be thinking about before the actual day of death. The author tries to reconnect how his parent’s life with her mother who was a strict follower of Christian faith and science could have brought, a situation where his father would question his understanding towards reality. He tries to remember his father’s doctoral research regarding the topic “double bind theory” which was about psychological interaction theory. He remembers how his father would spend time working in a mental hospital to understand his family and matters regarding his origin. Nathaniel later realizes that the double bind theory was not an accepted cause of schizophrenia. He further inquiries into more investigative research to know the cause of this disease. He traces the reasons to job loss, high mental activity level resulting from the profession his father occupied as a university professor, social, economic changes, and divorce. In all this possible reasons none could amount to making up the conclusion.
In his memoir, Nathaniel remembers only one occasion when his father was accused of stealing food despite being homeless. This shows that Charles was an innocent man when compared to other people who in his condition were victims of stealing food and beverages. Although the book is more of a narrative one rather than an instructional book. Nathaniel tries as much as possible from painting a negative character of his father. It is on the last page that he regrets the death of his father and hopes if he was still alive and he would have been spared the agony of writing the book. It is highly imperative that the main reason for the writing of the book was not about schizophrenia but Professor Charles death only that the book attracted the interest of researchers and social psychologists.
The character of Charles Lachenmeyer before his death helps many analyst to understand how schizophrenia can impact on the social life of an individual suffering alone with nobody to talk with or to express his social problems. Analysts say that the reason Charles died in desperation was a result of social vacuum that acted as a multiplier effect worsening his condition further.
In trying to understand further Schizophrenia Hillary a professor of sociology and genetics at the University of Oxford defines the disease as a serious mental disorder that ends up affecting a person’s way of thinking. It alters how one feels and how he acts. A victim of this ailment normally perceives things in his way and may not make sense when he communicates his thoughts to normal people. Such a person may keep quiet for many hours, lives without eating, moving or talking with anybody. He may seem perfect until that time he starts talking out his mind. He defines people with this kind of disorder as having difficulties in distinguishing what is imaginary and what is real. In his book, “Effects of Schizophrenia” he explains that people with this disorder are not violent neither do they pose a danger to other people. People with schizophrenia are unable to work or hold any job positions and often rely on others for care and help.
Hillary tries to understand the cause of the disease to no avail. What he concludes from scientific research is that the disease does not result from poor parenthood, early childhood experiences or the social challenges the victim may have undergone in his lifetime.
The causes of schizophrenia remain unclear in the scientific world Young (2008). Most theories hold that the disease arises from genetics and hereditary conditions, viral infections, brain imbalance, immune disorders and biological problems in the human body. There is no actual treatment but only depressives to stabilize the mental condition and prevent it from worsening. A victim may cope with the symptoms and live a meaningful life in the society.
Scientists believe that schizophrenia is a genetically inherited disorder that runs in families. The risk of getting this disease stands at one percent for the general population. The prevalence of contracting a disease depends on the degree of relation with the member of the family. Those with a first-degree relative, the risk stands at 10 percent. A first-degree relative is defined as being a brother, parent or a sister. People with a second-degree relative for whom it relates to an uncle, aunt, cousins or grandparents stands at a risk of 3 percent while identical twins stand at 60 percent risk level (Young, 2008. P34).
Following a critical analysis of ventricles for which they are cavities located at the center of the brain. The study realized that some people have bigger holes compared to others and those with this mental disorder have less gray matter that leads to less activity in the brain. It is widely believed that abnormal brain development before birth may be a leading cause that brings damaged connections within the brain cells only to be realized upon the victim attaining the puberty age when psychotic symptoms start appearing.
Chemical reactions within the brain cells that involve glutamate and dopamine for which they are neurotransmitters that greatly aids in receptors communication, an imbalance from this reaction is another cause for the disorder. When the transmitters are unable to work effectively to bring proper communication, the victim may find himself living in a different world other than the normal sense. He seems to daydream, take up imaginations that he perceives as being realistic. Just like in other genetically transmitted illnesses schizophrenia will only occur upon physical and bodily hormonal changes. Brain chemical imbalance can lead to the victim processing differently various stimuli of tastes, sounds, sights and smell hence leading to delusions.
Warnings signs of schizophrenia vary from individuals and symptoms develop gradually and may take months or even years before they are fully manifested. The disease may come once or in a series of a cycle. The disorder manifests itself through religious extremist behavior whereby one over engages in occult and religion affairs. Inability to concentrate and sleep, getting angered quickly over little matters, changing of appearance. Personality and hygienic lifestyle, feeling guilty for something that one has not done, poor job performance especially in undertaking tasks requiring a high level of conceptualization, feeling insecure over nonexistent matters and change of behavior to please those people one perceives to be enemies.
The symptoms of schizophrenia can be classified into three categories that include positive, cognitive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms entail a victim having behaviors that cannot be seen amongst healthy people. People with these symptoms typically lose the sense of real life and tends to live a life that is only possible in the dreamland. The symptom may be temporary hard to notice in case the victim is under medication and regularly receiving treatment. Hallucination is a common problem with the victims whereby one senses things that are different from others. He may hear a voice calling him but the people near him may not hear that voice, He may see objects that are nonexistent.
Negative symptoms arise when normal functioning is negatively affected, and the victims regularly require psychological help in their daily life. The behaviors arising out of this disorder include persistent laziness, drowsiness, lack of the ability to sustain activity, speaking in a low tone, being dirty and neglect of one’s personal hygiene. Cognitive symptoms can only be inferred upon the happening of a negative or positive sign and may be difficult to detect, and detection is only made possible by performing other tests. Victims with this symptom lack the ability to perceive information and make right decisions, inability to pay attention, poor memory and inability to retain information held.
With the causes of this mental disorder hardly known, its treatment remains difficult. As for now only psychological support can be given to the victims. Medical treatment includes the use of Haldol, Perphenazine, Prolixin and Chlorpromazine this form of medicine is known as antipsychotics. All this medications treats these symptoms and helps the victim cope with the reality. They bridge the informational gap between illusion world and the real world. Those under this drug are usually advised to avoid driving. The side effects of this drug include skin rashes, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness and sleeping disorder, poor vision, feeling dizziness, reduced menstruation cycles among women. The medicines can also cause weight gain and changes in metabolism. It is a result of the weight gain that most victims end up being affected by high cholesterol levels and finally risks contracting diabetes.
Antipsychotics are taken in the form of a liquid or pill form and typically administered once or twice a month. It is after taking these doses that symptoms ranging from hallucination and delusion go away within few days. The problem with this medication is the process one undergoes before getting the right treatment.
Besides using medicines psychosocial treatments can still be used whereby the victims are given psychological support to deal with daily challenges of the disease, proper communication and how to maintain a good relationship with others. In Psycho support the doctor should fully utilize illness management skills by making the victims own fully up their illnesses, the victims should regularly be taken to rehabilitation centers where the emphasis should be put on the victims’ social life and vocational training in making the victims entirely compatible with the society where they live. Rehabilitation programs should touch on counseling on job-related challenges the victim could be currently undergoing, teach on proper money management skills.
When people with schizophrenia are discharged out of hospitals, the family members should make sure that they are given psychological support to help them in problem solving and improve their analytical skills that may have dwindled from the dangerous effects of the disease. The issue of self-help group should be encouraged among the victims so that they can interact with other people facing such kind of mental challenges.
How to help individuals living with schizophrenia
Persons living with this type of deformity can get their special help from professional caregivers who specializes in mental illnesses. Although most of the victims resist psycho support as they tend to take their hallucinations as the reality. The victims can be treated in a hospital where they are left in the hands of a mental health professional. The family of the victim may persuade him morally by advising the sick on the ailment and showing him the need to undertake medication; this is known as moral persuasion. Family members should help the victim set realistic goals and not to live in a world of imagination.
Berger, L. (2003). An Outsider, My Father’s Struggle with Madness. The Journal of Loss and Trauma, 7, 3, 138-143.
Hillary, S. & Weinberger, D. R. (2005). Effects of Schizophrenia. Oxford: Blackwell Science
Young, P. (2008). The Schizophrenia. New York: Chelsea House Publishers.
Lachenmeyer, N. (2006). An Outsider, The Journey of my father’s struggle with madness. New York: Broadway Books.
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