Schizophrenia, A Hero’s Journey is my photographic study of the bravest person I know, my stepson, a man with schizophrenia. Darren was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 13, much earlier than is typical. He spent several years in and out of various psychiatric facilities as the medical, educational and social service communities struggled to assist the family in adapting to the journey this boy, and eventually, man, would take.
Throughout time and across distances, many cultures have revered individuals whose connections to the universe manifest as hallucinations. These individuals occupied honored places within the religious or social structures of their times – they were/are the healers, the seers, the shamans, the ones who know. They were heroes. Their hallucinations were regarded as visions with great social value, endowed with insight, providing unique guidance. Their hallucinations illuminate the path to wisdom and fulfillment of individuals and the society.
Hero’s Journey confounds our prevailing cultural interpretations of schizophrenia as a “split personality.” The expressions in the photographs are of a self-aware, intelligent individual experiencing conflicting voices from within and societal ignorance, indifference and denigration from without. This is also someone who attempts to live each day giving expression to his creative energies, finding meaning in his life even though the rest of our culture believes him to be either incapable of these experiences, or worse, undeserving of them.
Hero’s Journey attempts to document that, like most of us, the beginning of his life gave no indication to how he (and we) would be tested. His journey is not finished. Hero’s Journey asks viewers whether our culture can achieve the wisdom to see this unique universal connection and offer hope that he can be loved and nurtured for his insight and bravery. It asks, can we be brave enough to offer hope to Darren, to see him as “one who knows?”