[Marxism] Jared Loughner and Henry Cockburn follow-up

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 1 09:08:26 MDT 2011

Counterpunch Weekend Edition
July 1 - 3, 2011
Living With Schizophrenia -- Part One
The Trees Were Calling Me


Alexander Cockburn:
In 2002 my nephew Henry was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the 
age of 20. Harrowing times for Henry, his parents – Patrick 
Cockburn and Jan Montefiore – and his younger brother Alexander 
followed. Henry was expert at escaping from the various 
institutions in which he was supposedly secured. He would flee 
into the countryside around Canterbury east of London, often naked 
in the depth of winter  (as described below in one of his closest 
brushes with death)  and our whole family would wait bleakly for 
news, as the police searched for him and the snow fell.

After five years Henry started to recover. Patrick, as he writes 
in the preface to “Henry’s Demons”, “began to think he and I 
should write about our experiences. He was ideally placed to write 
from the inside about what it was like to have an acute mental 
illness in which trees and bushes spoke and voices called him to 
flee into the night or to plunge into icy water where he might 
drown. I believed that Henry and I could serve a broader public 
purpose by making schizophrenia and illness in general less of a 
mystery which people are embarrassed to discuss.”

Henry liked the plan.  As he overcame bouts of self-doubt the 
words flowed and as Patrick rightly  says, “his style had a sort 
of radiant simplicity and truthfulness about his actions.” 
Earlier this year “Henry’s Demons” was published, to great 
acclaim, on both sides of the Atlantic. There were chapters by 
Henry and by Patrick, also a long, striking excerpt from his 
mother Jan’s journal.

Beyond the raw immediacy of the family’s recollected experiences 
“Henry’s Demons” raises serious issues  about the treatment of 
schizophrenia,  whether by therapy or drugs. In the first of three 
excerpts we start here with Henry’s account of his escape into the 
winter countryside and his experiences in some of the institutions 
where he was locked up.

Henry Cockburn:
I was moved from Anselm after about six months to a rehabilitation 
centre in Ramsgate called the Grove. It was near the sea, and I 
would walk the whole length of the seafront, from Ramsgate to 
Broadstairs. Near the house I discovered a giant plum tree, and I 
would drag my dad there to eat fresh plums. I felt I wanted to 
have once again the experiences of the previous autumn—talking 
trees and following the wind. Most of the time, I was spitting out 
my medication. I wanted to run away because running away had 
become crucial to my life. I felt for a moment that I was being 
liberated and I was being brave. My plan was to walk to 
Canterbury, about fifteen miles away, and I went by the railway 
line after walking through a few fields. I remember walking 
through a cornfield where there was a huge spiderweb. I jumped 
over it, and the spider looked crossly at me as if I should have 
walked through his web. I went by the railway line and took my 
shoes off. The tree talked to me in a sort of Shakespearian rhyme:

     You must not act the knave
     When others rant and rave.

I asked about the monsoon that the tree I had talked to nearly two 
years earlier had predicted, and it said, “The towers will be 
surrounded by water” (I thought the tree meant the enormous towers 
of the power station near Ramsgate). I walked on a little and 
heard a very loud woof, and a big dog was staring at me. I took my 
clothes off and felt cold. I walked by the train tracks until I 
stepped on a thorn and fell over just seconds before a train raced 

I was lucky that I wasn’t seen. If someone had seen a naked man 
walking by the train tracks, they would have told the police. I 
could see the two towers near Ramsgate, and I knew it would be a 
long way to Canterbury. At first I walked through the bracken that 
grows by the railway tracks. Then I decided to walk by a field 
that was covered in thistles. This hurt my feet. I got to a ditch 
that had water in it. I rested there until dawn and it was very cold.

full: http://www.counterpunch.org/henry07012011.html

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