What is ironic is that I’m here in a hotel room in Seattle up late at night watching the movie “Awakenings” just as I finish my own participation in research related to my own mental illness of schizophrenia. Although “Awakenings” is not about schizophrenia, I feel that I can strongly relate to Robert DeNiro’s character. If you haven’t seen the film, it is about a man named Leonard who became suddenly ill when he was a child. He eventually had to be institutionalized in order to be cared for. No one knew what was wrong with him and others like him. Then, a doctor came along and experimented with medications that literally woke these people up from their stupefied states. Unfortunately, after awhile the medications ceased to work and many if not all of the patients returned to their stupefied states. The film is based on a true story actually. That is what makes it so tragic of course.
Every time I see the part where Leonard’s tremors are coming back and he is screaming out from his tremored state for the doctor to “LEARN, LEARN, LEARN, LEARN!” something inside me pangs and I want for every researcher out there to “LEARN, LEARN, LEARN, LEARN!” I feel it with the urgency and passion that DeNiro portrays, only I am never caught shaking and screaming it. The portrayal is the physical embodiment of every word that I could ever write down to ask for help in finding some solution for this disease.
Of course, I don’t count my story as quite so dismal. I am not in a stupefied state, but, I would not wish what I have gone through on anyone. The real reason why I love participating in research, why I jump at every opportunity, is that I hope, oh for god sakes, let them figure out how to make this disease go away.
I am so grateful to every person who spends the precious few moments they have on this Earth working to help people like me. We all want their efforts to bear the ripest fruit. It is just so hard knowing that there will probably be little if any progress on this disease in my lifetime.