April 4, 2011

Kenna McKinnon was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1978. She became ill three years earlier than that, unmedicated but counselled by people whom she only recently has grown to appreciate for their patience and care.

"I searched for God and he was the masthead on my battered vessel. He was the compass, but it would be many years before I found my salvation, searching in many various guises for the "perfect" Church.

"There was none. I found it's necessary to embrace the walk of Jesus and not worry about what his followers 2,000 years later are espousing with their various doctrines. The mainstream churches are a constant; churches like the Roman Catholic have withstood the test of time."


Kenna is now in RCIA following the walk of Jesus as a candidate at St. Joseph's Basilica in downtown Edmonton.

Her emotions for most of her adult life were locked away in a maelstrom of confusion, anger and fear.

"The craft I sailed so bravely after my first husband died in 1970 was leaking by the time I met my nemesis in 1975," Kenna says, "My role models were pirates and villains gleaned from books, movies and songs. Bad stuff."

She didn't know any better than to be an island in the midst of the perfect storm, battered on all sides, hurting her friends and family and herself most of all. What role models were there for her in those days, the 1970s to the 1990s, other than therapists who told her she would never work again?

"I overlooked some individuals who could and would have helped," McKinnon muses. "I felt I wasn't worthy of those who would befriend me positively, perhaps those who had been there before. (I didn't know; will never know). I was a rock. I was an island."

The mentally ill are often marginalized and given caregivers, not role models. There is so much misinformation. Medication is the key but not the whole answer. Medication is a start.

He will guide us; he and "God with skin" — our friends, therapists and family. God made the world. God did not make trash. His people are guiding stars. Find a star and God will steer.

(Austin Mardon aamardon@yahoo.ca has the Order of Canada and has suffered from schizophrenia since 1992.)

(Kenna McKinnon kenna-thescribe.blogspot.com is a freelance writer and self-employed businesswoman, and has lived successfully with schizophrenia for many years.)