1) World In Pictures – Tuesday February 8, 2011

A Kashmiri Muslim man prays in front of a copy of the Quran in a glass frame at the shrine of Sufi Saint Khawaja Naqashband on the anniversary of his death in Srinagar. Thousands of Kashmiri Muslims who believe in Sufism thronged the shrine of the saint on his 347th anniversary and offered special prayers on Monday. (Christian Science Monitor)

Meals are served at an event marking the upcoming Spring Festival in a Miao ethnic group village February 1, 2011 in Xijiang Town, Leishan County, Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, in southwest China’s Guizhou Province. Around 1,000 residents and tourists dined around a 280-meter-long table. (ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

Cornwall, England Sun sets over the sea looking towards Land’s End viewed from Gwenver beach near Sennen Cove. Like many parts of the United Kingdom, Cornwall is enjoying milder weather after one of the harshest winters on record. Normally, due to the effects of the Gulf Stream, winters in Cornwall are among the warmest in the country, meaning frost and snow are very rare in this part of England (LA Times)

2) Living With Schizophrenia, a Father and Son’s Story

Excerpts below are from a New York Times article about a book written by Patrick Cockburn and his son Henry, who at the age of 20 was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Henry, a talented painter, now 29, currently resides at a rehabilitation center in London.

The most important statement for me was from Patrick’s “We, as a family, will always have to cope with the consequences of his schizophrenia. But that, after all, is what families are for.”

I did not grow up with a strong family bond. I have been pretty much on my own since the age of 18. I am very happy now, but my childhood has much to do with my lack of desire to be either married, or raise children.

Which do you think had the biggest impact on the person you have become, your childhood or your experiences in life since?

Patrick and Henry Cockburn

Phantoms of the Mind, No Longer Shocking but No Less Haunting by Dwight Garner http://tinyurl.com/4mygsmb

“Henry’s Demons” is about how Henry Cockburn, in 2002, at the age of 20, received a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He was enrolled at the University of Brighton at the time. Trees began talking to him; he leapt naked into frozen lakes; he soiled his pants on a regular basis; he ate raw garlic; his hair became matted into a single mephitic dreadlock; he roamed the woods, his crotch becoming infested with insects; he began to resemble Jesus or a caveman. He would be in and out of mental institutions, all across England, for nearly the next decade. The charming young man his family had known was largely gone.

“The Anglo-Irish Cockburns are well known in Britain; they’re an elite brood of left-leaning journalists, a kind of Kennedy clan of impious dissent. Patrick is a longtime foreign correspondent who now reports from Iraq for The Independent. His two older brothers, Alexander and Andrew, are also iconoclastic journalists; so was their father, Claud. Many of Patrick’s ancestors — politicians, church leaders, judges — wrote books as well. Evelyn Waugh is a distant cousin.”

“One thing that may have contributed to Henry’s schizophrenia, in addition to genetic factors, was his stoner childhood. “I took a lot of marijuana between the ages of 14 and 19,” Henry writes.

Patrick says later in the book: “Jan and I were upset, but we both thought cannabis was fairly harmless. It wasn’t until Henry was in the hospital that we learned of its possible devastating impact on somebody genetically predisposed to schizophrenia.”

Henry’s illness might have been less severe if he’d have been willing to take his medications while in various institutions, but often he wouldn’t. “To Henry, his voices and visions were quite real,” Patrick writes, “and what he heard and saw was often beautiful and revelatory.”

Henry adds: “I wanted to live life to the fullest and felt that taking the medication would hinder me.”

He referred to his worst breakdowns as his “polka-dot days.” His mother tries her best to keep up everyone’s good humor. After Henry makes one particularly paranoid comment, she looks at him and says, clearing the air, “Darling, you’re bonkers!”

“Henry’s Demons” is a probing tour through the glories (and occasional idiocies) of the British health care system, through the history of schizophrenia and through the often barbarous ways patients have been treated. It’s a tour, too, through the psyches of two bright people watching their son unravel, the stitching pulled from his mind like wool from the bottom of a sweater.

“I feel like someone playing an unwinnable game of Snakes and Ladders,” Ms. Montefiore (Patrick’s wife janet) writes in her diary after a bad day. “We’ve just painfully climbed a ladder, now we’re down a bloody great snake, back at square one, goddammit.” By the end of the book, Henry’s condition has somewhat improved. But it is among this book’s bedrock realizations that, as Patrick puts it: “We, as a family, will always have to cope with the consequences of his schizophrenia. But that, after all, is what families are for.”

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