A Madman For Christ


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By Graham H Shields

ISBN: 978-1-78382-045-0
Published: 2013
Pages: 150
Key Themes: Mental Health, Mental Illness, Schizophrenia, Religion


“A Madman for Christ” covers the history of the author’s schizophrenia using both serious, heavy diary extracts and humorous accounting of what the author was doing with himself whilst mad, whilst developing a theology of suffering and madness. It is an interwoven account, at times a dossier of letters. It is written for friends and family in explanation, but would be of great use to clergy, mental health practitioners with all of its phenomenology of mental illness, carers, service users, and both Christians and non-believers alike.

About the Author

Graham H. Shields was born in 1964 in Kingston upon Hull but was brought up in Hornsea, East Yorkshire. He studied Civil Engineering at Imperial College, London, and then went on to work down a tunnel followed by designing small pumping manholes as well as a sewerage system. After this, he worked for an Anglican Church as a Pastoral Assistant before studying for an MSc at Lancaster, and then more study at Leeds University where his dissertation was entitled “The Disposal and Reuse of Septic Tank and Pit Latrine Waste in Hargeisa Somaliland”. He has suffered twenty years of schizophrenia, but has mostly recovered owing to the love shown to him by his mother and father, care offered by services and, significantly, his faith as a Christian. He lives in Pocklington in East Yorkshire and attends Pocklington Christian Fellowship as well as a Quaker Meeting when he can. He spent a year as a student at Cliff College, the Methodist Bible College.

Book Extract

In the early part of 1993, I kept a diary to record some of my thoughts and experiences. What follows is based upon my entries to it during the month of January; I have elaborated many of the ideas and have adjusted some of the language to make it a little more readable.

Monday, January 4th

I’ve never kept a diary like this in a formal way nor am I convinced that it’s a good idea since I tend not to like writing on lined paper, or out of a sense of duty. And, furthermore, my preference is to write letters to people rather than to scribble them just for myself. Well, maybe, it could be said that writing like this enables one to express thoughts more clearly when it comes to expressing them to others, but often the fun of expressing them to others is the spontaneity with which such thoughts are expressed and this can often be lost if worked out in too much detail beforehand. And, actually, the more I think about it the less inclined I become to want to keep it – in fact diaries like this can become counterproductive. People buy diaries to keep so that they can address the issues of life and to feel a sense of order in the process. But somehow having to write every day, as in a diary like this, undermines much of the objective: a tool existing to help promote a sense of control ends up taking over; one’s life becomes a modus operendi for one’s diary, like what happens to people with their cameras when they take them on holiday to take photographs. What I’d prefer is a book with a calendar at the front of it and lots of pages of plain paper to do with as I chose. But, maybe then I’d lose the discipline. Somehow, this book doesn’t feel suited to writing copious quantities of lyrical prose in, but all the same I think I can find a use for it; I will use it more for jottings than coherent literature.

I suppose many people in persecuted situations have used diaries – one thinks of Anne Frank amongst others, and certainly in her position a diary must have helped as talking has helped me. I suspect diaries run the risk of an element of unreality – a kind of obsessive substitution for risking feelings with another. But I suspect many find themselves writing to God, or with some loved one in mind, or to someone they hope will eventually read what’s written. Some introspective analysing and so forth is helpful but too much of it in this cramped manner runs the risk of stilted bitterness. But who could live on a desert island without paper and pen? Anyhow, my principal reason is to keep tabs on things for future reference as an “aide memoir” if you like. But the trouble is once people realise that you’re recording things they change their behaviour; maybe that’s a good reason for keeping one!

I got up early for me to witness that a couple of inches of snow fell overnight. I woke up to Douglas Hurd on the television saying “They’re doing a good job” and took it as a compliment noticing that he had intoned it in such a way that I was legitimate in suspecting that he wasn’t just addressing his audience. I had breakfast of coffee with peanut butter on water biscuits and went out for a walk. My nature is affected by the colour of jumper I’m wearing. Wearing a red one for too long is dangerous, but I had a brown one on top of my red one which is safer. I walked through the school field muttering about Belgian humour of the sort which insults people you like. I bought some ink cartridges and saw some plump young girls who prompted me to have a thought about why such may worry about their bulk. Perhaps it’s because when a woman gets pregnant she becomes fat and, hence, the change in size represents the having of a sexual relationship. Consequently, a plump girl may feel that the visible nature of her plumpness associates her with pregnancy and sex and she, therefore, wants to hide this or feels an ancient guilt because of it. I’m sure there are lots of other reasons more to do with men’s attitudes.

I had fishcakes for lunch, homemade as usual by my Mum. Her fishcakes are probably the best fishcakes in the world! I took another stroll and talked to my frustratingly invisible audience about mental health, and the compulsory treatment thereof, with relation to civil liberties. In the public’s perception, to be sectioned you have to be a danger either to others or yourself though in practice if you are deemed to be a danger to your own mental health you can also be sectioned. This gives the system too much leeway and infringes upon our liberty to think, say and feel what we choose to. Habeas corpus, the right to liberty without conviction by a jury, is our fundamental right and if we express the wish to not have treatment then that should be enshrined as our freedom just as it is for any other condition. If our behaviour disturbs others, but does not break the law, then there should be some system by which we can agree to a civil undertaking before a magistrate with the understanding that the breaking of it will result in hospitalisation. A system of hearings would enable the treating of us visionaries with adult respect and permit communication and a reality feedback. Sectioning people for buying Guardians is an extreme abuse of the Act! I made an appeal to all civil libertarians who may have been listening though I suspected that the thought police would not forward my arguments. I have discovered that if I put two fingers from my right hand onto the centre of my forehead in the morning and rotate anticlockwise with my hand twice then I can severely limit the numbers of thought police tuned into my mind. I have also discovered, disturbingly, that if I put a certain combination of fingers in the right combination on my head then I would be able to hear one of the controlling voices. So far I have not dared to do this.


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