The Ghosts Behind Him

Doris Ray

Doris Ray’s first book, The Ghosts Behind Him (Caitlin Press 1999), chronicling her family’s devastating experiences with her son Bruce’s schizophrenia, was the recipient of a BC2000 Book Award.

At the age of twenty-one Ray’s son Bruce was struck down by the symptoms of an illness which at times was so bizarre that it was beyond his mother’s capacity to comprehend. Despite Bruce’s doctor’s diagnosis of schizophrenia, Ray sometimes suspected that he had multiple personalities, or else was in a state of being possessed by otherworldly entities. Bruce was puzzled and bemused by the hallucinations he was experiencing. At first he recognised that they stemmed from his own runaway imagination; later on, he became overwhelmed by them.

Bruce was never a violent or even an aggressive person. Raised in the Northern BC community of Fraser Lake he enjoyed playing minor hockey. Despite the aggressive nature of the sport, Ray recalls that in all the years Bruce participated he only received one minor penalty. He was a talented poet and musician hoping to embark a career as a commercial artist. There was no way anyone could predict that one day he would be charged with the senseless murder of a fellow resident of his Nanaimo group home.

Schizophrenia adversely affects the lives of family members, friends and other members of the community, as well as the victim. Sufferers don’t always realise that they are ill. Sometimes they express disturbing and even criminal behaviour. When that occurs we can no longer ignore or sweep under the carpets, the plight of the mentally ill in our society.