Paranoid Schizophrenia: Paul's Story

This article was written for Schizophrenic.com by Paul Shtogryn. This is his story of recovery from paranoid schizophrenia.

The headaches started during the summer of 1966. These headaches were permanent and wouldn't go away.

In 1967, halfway through Grade 9, I was referred to Dr. Armstrong. He, along with my family doctor, had me certified mentally insane. Back then, you had to have two doctors under the Mental Health Act, not one as it is today. Two doctors had to proclaim you mentally ill to be in a psychiatric hospital.

Homewood Sanatorium

So, in February 1967, I was sent to Homewood Sanatorium in Guelph, which was also a psychiatric hospital privately owned that catered to elite rich alcoholics like Mickey Rooney, Milton Berle and Lucille Ball. While there, I had 11 shock treatments and was on antipsychotics, such as Mellarill. I also had a rocking habit that I later learned was an anxiety symptom.

In April 1967, I was transferred to Ontario Hospital in Hamilton, which today is known as St. Joesph's Health Care. During this time, I also learned that my IQ was 107. I had another 12 ECT treatments, making it 23 altogether.

In March 1968, I was one of the first seven patients of Dr. Arshad Majeed’s adolescent ward. I became interested in my own story after Susanna Kaysen wrote "Girl, Interrupted" starring Winona Ryder and Best Supporting Oscar winner Angelina Jolie. While there, they took us to Hamilton TiCat football games, the Hamilton Red Wings hockey games and bowling, which was co-owned by John Barrow, a CFL player with the Ti-Cats. I also got to see myself on TV while taping wrestling at the CHCH TV Studios during weekend privileges.

Discharged 1968 - Surpassing expectations at school

Finally on August 27, 1968, I became what would be the first ever successful patient discharged from an adolescent ward anywhere in Canada. When Dr. Majeed signed me out, I wanted to shake hands with him and thank him for everything they did. But he refused, saying I did everything.

When I returned to high school, I was told by my guidance counselor that this would be a transitional year and that I shouldn't expect to pass. I didn't; I got 38 percent and failed badly.The following year, in Grade 10, my marks doubled to 67 percent and I surprised many of the teaching faculty. In Grade 11, I got 68 percent, and the last year, in Grade 12, I missed the honour roll by just 1 percent and was exempted from writing all final exams.

When I went to Mohawk College, a professor asked me why I was two years behind the norm, and I told him the truth. He said they (Psychiatric hospital) must have done one damn good job because he couldn't find anything wrong with me whatsoever.

I should note that I did have all my teeth pulled when I was 19 because the meds had dried up my saliva glands. I have been wearing dentures ever since.

No more meds

I worked as a sportswriter for the National Sports Journal in Calgary and completed a creative writing course at Niagara College. When I saw Dr. Johnston, a psychiatrist, in 1975, he told me that I would grow out of my problems and that I didn’t need the meds anymore. Gradually, I weaned myself off of meds for 35 consecutive years.

I found out from Bill Kent of the Ontario Patient Council that I could find out what my real diagnosis was, which was at the Archives of Ontario where my medical records now are since I haven't been hospitalized in over 25 years. I found out they had me as “paranoid schizophrenia” and that St. Joe's didn't have me in their database; nor did the high school records have any indication of me ever being in a psychiatric hospital of any kind.

I have been free of mental illness and well now for over 44 straight years.

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