Peter is a 57 year old, single man who lives in the home where he grew up; he’s been living there independently since 1996. He is the third oldest of seven children. Peter is also a craftsman who enjoys woodworking, upholstery, furniture restoration and copper sculpture (see above photo).
Peter reports that symptoms of schizophrenia began in his senior year in high school. Nonetheless, he was stable enough to go to Nigeria, where he taught biology. Although he had a three year contract, he only stayed 14 months. At the time (late 1970s), there was unrest in the country over the building of a highway through the West African forest. This unrest became stressful, causing Peter to struggle with what he should do:
So for me, this is all very, very, very hard on my head. You know, to make decisions. What’s ethically right in this situation? You know, do I stand and be a teacher and teach all this biology and let these things go on? You know, or do I, do I take a side? I had to take a side, but after Dahomi fell and they got a new principal for the school, I told the principal that I had to come home.
Listen to the above excerpt here:
So, in 1979, Peter left Africa and returned to the United States.
Peter has a background in Chemistry. Although he had some bouts with both physical and mental illness in his 20s, he graduated with honors in Environmental Control Protection Technology from Raymond Walters College. After graduating, he worked for an environmental consulting agency for 20 months before the stress was again too much for him, and he chose to leave. Peter’s sensitivity to stress is a common difficulty reported by individuals with schizophrenia, a struggle that others often misunderstand and minimize.
Throughout his life, Peter has tried several different medications for Schizophrenia: Prolixin, Tegretol, Tofranil, Cogentin, Risperdal, Depakote, Zyprexa and even experimental drugs tested at a local hospital. He is now back on Prolixin and Cogentin and pleased with this combination; however, he is critical of Western medical practices:
Western medicine does not heal. It seeks to cure, but it does not heal. It seeks to find the reason, but they’re too bent on physiology, form and function – too bent on nuts and bolts to think about the spiritual healing of a person… If you have holistic doctors who depend on holism–holism is pretty much like the cosmos, everything connected together in the ecosphere. With holism, they try to use the body homeopathically, you know, to help the body to heal itself. …even the holistic doctor is not in tune like Eastern religion is with the cosmos, a cosmos where everything in the niche zens to the healing. The environment is also included in a person’s healing. I surround myself with things that make me feel good. They all, they all, they have a part in my life, you know, and I heal here, but I can’t go very far from home.
Listen to an expanded version of the above excerpt here:
Peter has a sophisticated understanding of the need to incorporate multiple components of a person’s life into treatment regimens. As such, he is active in creating healing environments for himself and encourages others to be more active in healing themselves:
They’re just giving you the medicine to cope with it. You’re gonna have to heal yourselves. You’re gonna have to work with each other to heal, heal yourselves…We have these problems all the time. We’re heartbroken all the time. We’re gonna have to do something about it. And, you have to help somebody else about it…
Peter doesn’t just talk about the need to help each other to heal, he acts on those beliefs. He volunteers 60 hours a month on the WARMline, a call-in service for mental health consumers who need support but are not in crisis, and has done this for the past 17 years.