S3: Fine Line - Episode 9 - Jeff

Episode Information

Fine Line: Mental Health/Mental Illness – Episode 9 – Jeff

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to Season three Fine Line narrative histories about mental health and mental illness, a traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by Kronkosky Charitable Foundation. May you find insight and understanding in these voices. Episode nine, Jeff.

Jeff:  I started taking piano lessons when I was about six or seven, and then I stopped taking lessons and I, I kind of developed my technique by myself. I think I chose the piano more than other instruments because, because of my dexterity with my hands and also I, I like the sound better. What I remember most about my childhood was the baseball games we used to play in our front yard. When we moved out into the country, we usually had the neighbors come over and we used to go down to the creek when, when it was raining, when it was flooding, and, um, watch the creek rise. When I, when I got older, I kind of started isolating and, um, spending a lot of time by myself.

And the friends that I did have seemed to have normal social relationships with each other, especially girls and guys. Me, I was being a loner. I I knew I was somehow different from other people. I sort of felt invisible in a way. Schizophrenia is, it’s, um, a mental imbalance in the brain. It’s a disease that, um, causes your, your mind to wander. And symptoms I’ve been having in, in my mental illness are things like hearing voices, thinking that people are out to get me false beliefs and an inability to, to think soundly and to develop meaningful relationships with other people. I guess I fear what people think about me quite a bit. Uh, I think maybe a lot of schizophrenics fear that I fear how, how I come across to people. And I fear the idea of, of maybe my, my folks dying and my not having fulfilled my dreams or fulfill my life. I would like the public to understand that mental illness isn’t the same as mental retardation in that a lot of us are very intelligent and people tend to isolate or they, they tend to shun, shun us away because quote they’re mentally ill, unquote.

I believe that my having this, this schizophrenia has in, in, in some ways made me a better person and made me more, more appreciative of, of life and nature and more grateful in ways because I think too many people don’t realize that they’re on this life for a very short time. And, uh, I can see this very clearly. And had I not had this mental illness, I probably never developed the qualities that make me the person that I am.

[Outro Music]

Host: My wife and I have a 100-year-old upright piano. It has candlesticks just above the keys. Jeff sat down and played a beautiful and haunting tune. It set off a cascade of memories of his childhood and his family. Jeff was the second person I interviewed in Fine Line Mental Health, Mental Illness. What he said is so important and revelatory. Jeff’s symptoms of schizophrenia has made his life difficult, but his symptoms do not in any way define him. He’s a talented musician, deeply intelligent. He talks about how difficult it is to feel invisible and being shunned by others. All stories are incomplete. Jeff is wise. He speaks so clearly. He carries an important perspective with humility. He said, I believe having schizophrenia has, in many ways made me a better person and maybe more grateful and appreciative of life and of nature. Everyone knows something important and valuable, a wisdom that only they know about their own experience. We are grateful for Jeff’s voice, his presence and openness. May something in his story stay with you. Stories are our gravity, and without them, we might float away. I’m Michael Nye. You may go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for Jeff’s portrait and transcript. Thank you for listening.