Kenneth is 49 years-old, and lives in a group home where he was living for 5 months at the time of his interview. Since childhood, he has been impulsive, easily led, and often in trouble with the law. He has a history of setting fires, and his living conditions have been unstable. He has had trouble making and keeping friends. His difficulties do not stem entirely from his schizophrenia, but are related to learning and attention problems as well, and from the use of drugs and alcohol.
Here Kenneth describes his history of getting in trouble from the time he was very young:
Well, I grew up in a neighborhood with rowdy kids, but before that I kept on running away from my mom and dad or running away from the hospitals. I was probated back in the 60’s and I kept on running away …
I ended up on house arrest for a while. And I broke house arrest and ended up going to a psychiatric unit, back in the 70’s, and while I was there I got very out of control and set the hospital on fire—set the whole second floor on fire.
Instead of going to jail for setting the fire, Kenneth was sent to a different mental institution:
Instead of prosecuting me and trying me as an adult, he [the judge] ordered me to go to a mental hospital up in Cleveland called Sagamore Hills Children’s Hospital. And while I was there, I was getting psychological treatment, and it didn’t- While I was there, I set another fire. Some patients gave me matches and told me to start a fire, so I set my room on fire. And then got sent back over a year and a half, two years, while I was there.
And then when I got my act together, I got out of there. In about 1980/1, when I turned 18. And I went to my parents’ house where I stayed almost a year and a half, until one day I picked up a chair and threw it at the window, and my mom called the police and I ended up at the psych unit at University.
Listen to the above excerpt here:
Kenneth is aware of his impulse control problems, and they form a central part of his life story. He also understands the negative impact they have had on his life. He describes his actions with regret, but without any understanding of how he might have changed things or what he could have done differently. He seems to feel relief at the fact that he has had no such problems recently.
Interviewer: When you look back at all those things, Kenneth, how do you feel now?
Kenneth: Well I’m glad it’s mostly clear, but I still have a tendency to get angry and I had one when I was staying with my mom for a while, before I went to one of those motels. I had a temper with her. You know, I used vulgar words. I’m better than I used to be. I don’t have any more problems getting angry and breaking things or threatening anybody or anything.
Because of his psychiatric history and hospitalizations, Kenneth has received very little education.
Interviewer: How did you get along in school when you were younger?
Kenneth: I never went to school. I had tutors. Well I had one tutor just for a very short time, then I had [another] tutor for several months that would tutor me two or three times a week. I think it was like fifth grade work and that’s about all.
While Kenneth has been able to stay out of the hospital for the last several years, his life remains difficult. He is heavily medicated, and he is too tired to engage in many activities. In fact, has trouble staying awake.
Interviewer: What is a typical day like for you?
Kenneth: Well, a typical day is like I just can’t get up and motivate myself. I mean, I wasn’t gonna come here again today. I didn’t come here yesterday. I just didn’t have no nerve really to come in yesterday. I was so tired. I took the medicine this morning and this made me groggy and tired; that’s why I’m kind of downward voice. When I take that morning medicine it knocks me down. It makes me so tired. I’m taking a lot of medications. I take eight or nine pills in the morning and eight or nine at night.
Kenneth feels guilty about his inability to accomplish anything. He wants to do things, but he isn’t able to overcome the effects of the medication.
Interviewer: How do you like coming down here?
Kenneth: I like it in a way, but I really feel like I should participate better or more than I do, because when I try to participate, I go to sleep because of my medication.
Kenneth says that he does not have a lot of good memories from his life, but remembers his grandparents fondly, and likes to think about the times he spent with them.
My best memory is being with my grandma and granddad Rupe and the Rupe family on Rupe picnics out at White Water State park. Every year we used to go, the whole family used to go to the park—White Water State Park.
Because Kenneth feels the effects of his medication so strongly, it took a major effort for him to participate in this interview. When asked why he wanted to be interviewed, especially because of the energy it required, Kenneth suggested that it was important to him to meet a challenge.
I think it’s done me good. I sometimes feel like, you know, people should try take on a task or take on a place with ourselves too.