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Living a Full Life with Schizophrenia

Louis Wain’s Schizophrenic Cats

Louis Wain’s Schizophrenic Cats

I’d like to call attention to a very interesting fellow.  Like many of us, he found himself experiencing the growing symptoms of schizophrenia and used his art as an expression of this illness.  One of the most effective coping mechanisms available is the full enjoyment of our hobbies.

While he may have been dealing with the discomfort and general annoyance of schizophrenia, I believe that he made the absolute best of it and continued to thrive and bring unabated creativity to his art, which I would like to share with you here.  Please read a bit about Louis Wain’s life first, and then continue to the bottom to see the progression of his artwork from the early periods and then forward.

The Life of Louis Wain

louis wainBut first, let’s speak of the man and his life first!  On a fateful day in the August of 1860 a newborn entered the world in London who would come to be widely known for his artistic talents in the anthropomorphizing of hand drawn cats.  Growing under the guidance of his father who worked in the textile and embroidery business, he was later joined by five sisters, leaving him the only male child of his French mother.

In what could be seen as a genetic predisposition to mental illness, one of his sisters became unmanageable and was admitted to a mental hospital for care.  All of the remaining children lived at home with their mother for the length of their adult lives.  Louis himself spent the largest portion of his life living at home with his parents as well.

realistic catAs a baby, Louis had to deal with the common affliction of a cleft lip, which kept him out of school until long after the age of ten.  He ultimately attended the West London School of Art (thankfully for us, who enjoy his work!) and even began teaching.  His father perished when he reached the age of twenty years old and he became the sole caretaker of the many females in his family.  This led to him becoming a freelance artist in which he was extremely successful, as we will continually show throughout this writing.

His Career as an Artist

humanoid catsAfter quitting his enjoyable position as a professor at college, he enjoyed himself much more immensely in his pursuit of freelance artistry.  This netted him wonderful jobs in many different journals, drawing landscapes, farm animals, and even more.

When his sister became sick with breast cancer, she found much comfort in the company of their house cat that they rescued as a stray from the cold.  In order to increase the good moods, Mr. Wain began teaching the cat tricks, such as wearing glasses, which led to him sketching these amusing moments.  His sister urged him to continue these drawings and attempt to have them published.  He did this, in honor of her life, and it led to his success and world wide fame.

His success found his artwork in magazines, children’s books, newspapers, and on postcards.  He began to work with many animal charities, produced comic strips, and more.  His success was widespread, but financially he remained burdened by his family.  I’m sure he was more than happy to support them.

The Progression of Louis’ Schizophrenia

cat schizophrenia drawingAs mentioned, Louis Wain’s drawings began like many other cute portrayals of animals.  They were featured wearing silly hats, holding balls, pretending to give a speech to other kittens, and other funny items.  The key attribute to notice is that all of the cats still resembled animals still.  They walked about on four legs, wore no clothing, and their faces showed no expression of human emotion.  This is how Louis began drawing his cats.  Very simply, they were cats in human situations and nothing more.

However, as time continued, Louis developed his cats into more anthropomorphic measure, meaning they began to resemble humans much more.  They were able to stand on two legs, smile like humans, and wear classy human clothing.  This sophistication of the cats was not strange.  He surely was not the first to draw animals playing the piano and drinking tea while enjoying a cigar at the opera!

first symptoms louis wainThe first signs of Louis Wain’s schizophrenic decline began after his mother’s death.  His usual charm left and his difficulty separating fantasy from reality increased.  Others began to have problem’s comprehending his tangential speech, oftentimes referring to his delusions that had started.  We all know these signs and symptoms, but he himself surely didn’t recognize it as it was happening.  His delusions were of the paranoid type, with fear surrounding electronics and the organization of the furniture in his home.  He began losing time to activities that had no specific goal other than to avoid this interference from some unnamed aggressor.

The Cat Schizophrenia Theory

There has been some controversy surrounding Louis Wain’s development of schizophrenia.

Some researchers have suggested that it is possible that Louis Wain contracted schizophrenia as opposed to developing it.  This is said to be possible through the exposure to toxoplasmosis, which is an infection created by parasites that cats can become host to, although the veracity of this theory is still under review.  This theory found its origin in 1953 but there is still no definitive evidence either way.

The Alteration of Wain’s Art

Eventually his sister’s had had their share of his strange and bizarre behaviors, sometimes culminating in violence.  They sent him to Springfield Mental Hospital where he remained for a year before other’s recognized him for his esteem and talent and attempted to intervene on his behalf, including H. G. Wells and the Prime Minister!  He was transferred to Napsbury Hospital in 1930 that had a more pleasant atmosphere, including a garden in which tons of cats lived!

normal artwork

As time continued, Louis’ work took on a more abstract characteristic.  The main element of his drawings, cats, remained, but they began to be drawn more in the portrait style, featuring one cat at a time.  There is dispute as to whether the commonly shown progression of his artwork actually mirrors the progression of his schizophrenic symptoms, but regardless, there is no question as to whether or not the drawings became increasingly strange.

early drawingThe smiling and happy cat portraits that featured nice floral backgrounds slowly transformed.  The happiness shifted into a sense of suspicion in the cat’s faces, and the floral patterns featured sharper points.  The bright colors became ‘electrified’ colors until finally the background featured auras of electrical activity radiated from the cats.  The cats themselves began to show more fearful and annoyed looks, with their ears turned backs and their eyes looking in peculiar directions.

The cats returned to smiles, although it appeared more of a strange contentment and mischief than pure happiness, until emotion left the cat’s faces altogether, looking more emotionally blunted with no affect whatsoever.  In time, the portraits began to resemble something more of a Tibetan diety and soon a psychedelic vision.  In the end, the cat’s were no longer perceivable and it looked more like what you would imagine some transcendental or multi-dimensional scene would appear like.

Conclusion

If this amazing story of Louis Wain’s development of his artistic skills to the point of fame and fortune and his eventual development of schizophrenia intrigues you, you will be happy to know that there are over a dozen books in his bibliography that you can obtain and enjoy.  Check them out if you’d like some inspiration!

Please scroll down to see a full progression of Louis Wain’s work as it becomes more bizarre and creative.

wain schizophrenic cats

Thank you for reading about the inspiring and creative life of Louis Wain at Schiz Life!

7 Comments

  1. Always I enjoy a great artistic talent. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. This is a interesting read about others who have schizophrenia and are/were artists.

    I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and love art, so thanks for writing about Louis Wain and showing his cats 🙂

  3. Thanks, fellas! I agree, this is one of the most interesting cases, not only of art, but of spirituality as well. There seem to be obvious eastern influences on his work. I’ve also been in love with art, especially hand drawing with pencil. It’s what entertained me through grade school!

  4. Good Folk at Schizlife,

    I am a retired family physician. During my college years there was a summer program for students interested in medical school at the local medical college. During that summer there was a monograph on Thorazine that had a series of images of an artist who painted cats. As his schizophrenia decompensated these gloriously bizarre paintings emerged and as he improved they became more naturalistic. You have helped me solve the mystery. It was Louis Wain.

    I have a passive interest in art therapy and now I will reconsider the passivity of that. You have inspired me to seek an artist to be a part of our community advisory board of the Comprehensive Mental Health Center at the medical college.

    Keep up the good work.

    A.L., MD

  5. Very interesting to see the images transform as his illness would peak, then return to its natural state as symptoms would decrease. Thank you for the informative story.

  6. This is truly AMAZING! I, too, suffer from schizophrenia. I adore cats and love to draw them more with pencil than anything else. I’ve always wondered was there a link between having this illness and having a soft heart for cats and/or other pets. Cats are very calming and soothing. I think people with a form of mental illness…they have a 6th sense. We’re not able to function normally especially under stress and with severe symptoms, but our creativity is also heightened in very unique and different ways. Thank you for this informative site! It’s great to know how others with this illness made it through. I thank God MOSTLY for this “eye opener.”

  7. As a schizophrenic and cat lover, I found this interesting. It’s nice to see stories where people are still able to create and do things even when the illness is tormenting them. Thank you.

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Schiz Life - Living With Schizophrenia

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For many of us, living with schizophrenia is our reality. And instead of struggling with the wish of how things “could be,” we finally come to an acceptance of our predicament and ultimately we embrace the fact of our lives: We are people dealing with schizophrenia. So then the question becomes not “Why” we suffer from this illness, but “How” we will cope and continue to enjoy our lives. We certainly will not give up! We have every right to demand the niceties, freedoms, and enjoyments of life to which all living creatures are entitled. This is what Schiz Life is all about.

Mission Statement Concerning Schizophrenia Information and Culture

Schiz Life serves to…

  • • Provide a safe haven for persons who wish to converse, cope, and share their experiences with schizophrenia in a positive manner in an attempt to celebrate the beauty of life, especially concerning our unique perspective on existence.
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Schiz Life intends to achieve this goal in the following manner:

The Schiz Life Schizophrenia Action Plan

  1. 1. We will continue to take advantage of internet outreach, contacting news agencies and other medical bloggers in hopes that they will join us in raising awareness of schizophrenia.
  2. 2. We will continue to promote this website through video and media outlets, including the dissemination of informational videos and graphics such as the first official schizophrenia infographic.
  3. 3. We will all contribute where possible off-line, including at health expo’s, psychology conferences, and any other relevant opportunity to spread the good word.

Thank You for Your Part in the Schizophrenia Journey!

We all thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for playing your role in the developing journey surrounding schizophrenia awareness and research. With all of our combined efforts, we will change the way the world perceives this illness and we will advance the medical efforts of professionals in their search for a cure and effective medicines. Thank you again!

Do Your Part!

Do you know of a great schizophrenia resource out there? Let us know! Do you see a person in need inside the comments of this site? Lend them some advice or encouragement! Are you a graphic designer or artist? Show us your work and I'm sure we can find some way to include your skills here on the site. Are you a writer who would like to contribute to the site? Shoot us an email and we'll discuss it. This site is for all of us and excludes none of us. Contact us for any reason and get involved!

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Try This Quick Schizophrenia Mini-Quiz:

This is but a quick quiz to test your general knowledge of schizophrenia. If you would like to take the extended and in-depth quiz, venture over to our Schizophrenia Quiz page and see just how much you know! Try the Schizophrenia Test to gauge your symptom levels.

Schizophrenia Quiz Directions: Please select the correct answer for each question and then press the button below to grade your quiz.

1. What is the term for perceiving stimuli that doesn't exist?




2. Which is NOT a type of schizophrenia?




3. Which of the following is a symptom of schizophrenia?




4. How common is schizophrenia in the general population?




5. Who can diagnose a case of schizophrenia?




6. How can schizophrenia be treated?




7. Are the causes of schizophrenia genetic or environmental?




8. What is the most common age of onset?




9. Catatonia is categorized as what type of symptom?




10. Is Schiz Life the best website about schizophrenia?




 

Show me the answers!

 

Question 1: The correct answer is the Hallucination.
Question 2: The correct answer is Hyperlipid.
Question 3: The correct answer is All of the Above.
Question 4: The correct answer is 1%.
Question 5: The correct answer is A Doctor.
Question 6: The correct answer is All of the Above Should Be Used.
Question 7: The correct answer is Both.
Question 8: The correct answer is 25.
Question 9: The correct answer is Negative.
Question 10: The correct answer is DON'T BE A PARTY POOPER!.
You answered them all right! Good job! You know a little something about schizophrenia, don't you!

 

How To Use This Site

If you're brand new to this site, it might look overwhelming until you get a sense of where things are at.  Schiz Life is a content-based site, much like a newspaper or a magazine.  However, we focus strictly and solely on schizophrenia.  So where does all of this content reside?  We have decided to separate our articles into several categories, as described below:

Basics

This category will be of the most interest to those who wish to gain a very broad but shallower overview of the entirety of the academic view of schizophrenia.  We cover all of the topics you'd expect to find in an abnormal psychology text book here, and at a similar depth.  It is a great introduction to this illness and will guide you further along into deeper topics.

Knowledge

We cover various angles such as statistics, research, and more factually based views of schizophrenia and place them in this category.  One could say that it is almost a repository for article that don't fit into the other categories, but it is more than that.  Go check it to find out more!

Treatment

The name says it all.  This category of content covers all topics related to the treatment and prevention of schizophrenia and its relapses.  We've started with the empirically sound and scientifically backed methods first, but we intend to venture into more holistic and alternative therapies as well.  Without investigating all options, progress wont' be made, and so we do.

Symptoms

There are countless symptoms involved in schizophrenia. We cover them in depth in this category, including the positive (outward) and negative (inward) symptoms of every type of this disorder.  There is much to read here, so if a particular symptom is giving you or a loved one trouble, this is the place to go and learn more about it.

Coping

What use is all of this information when we simply don't feel good enough to read it and learn?  The category for coping provides many ideas that you can apply to your own life to help you maintain the best health possible, physically, psychologically, and spiritually.  Schizophrenia is a mental illness that some of us simply cannot escape, but we can learn to live with it, minimize its problematic aspects, and take advantage of some of the aspects it unlocks within us that others don't have!

Culture

Let's face it.  People are afraid of what they don't understand.  This category addresses the cultural issue of schizophrenia and it's impacts on the way we are treated or perceived by the masses.  It is up to us to represent ourselves in the best light and to combat the myths and misunderstandings that exist in the world concerning our plight.  Learn about these issues here and apply them in your lives!

Spectrum

There are other classifications of illnesses that are very closely related to schizophrenia.  The only differences might just be a research label actually, but we have found it useful to place these articles in a category of their own.  We deal with schizophreniform and psychosis disorders and their respective symptoms here.

Spirituality

While the medical community deals with schizophrenia as a psychological or physical disorder of the brain, those of us who actually experience it know it is much more.  It is a philosophical, spiritual, metaphysical, and mythological issue.  Coming to terms with this, confronting it, integrating it, and reconciling it leads to much higher functioning not only as an individual diagnosed with schizophrenia but as a member of society in general.  We have a deeper access to this aspect of life and have a great opportunity for learning and healing.

Artwork

Many of us past and present have chosen to express ourselves through the arts.  Whether this is painting and drawing, poetry, dancing, or any other artform, it is healthy and beautiful.  We are writing biographies, displaying artwork, and welcoming submissions from our own community to be included here in this category!  Please submit if you have something to share!

News

The internet has opened up the world.  There is a constant flow of news concerning our illness but you wouldn't know it by watching the television.  We cover new research topics, treatment modalities, and nationwide and worldwide coverage of schizophrenia or incidents related to it in this category!

Other Items

We have also included other items of interest throughout our website.  For instance, we are producing a series of infographics to help educate the public on this topic.  We also are collecting and reviewing books concerning the illness.  In addition, we have created a directory for the United States of all treatment facilities and hospitals that have staff that are trained to work with schizophrenia cases.  Please look around and find these sections and more.

Disclaimer

There is something that was slightly mentioned in the footer of the site, but that could be overlooked easily so we felt it was the responsible thing to do to create a large disclaimer to be displayed here on the homepage.  This has to do completely with safety.  Let us explain.

Individual Uniqueness

unique individualEvery individual on this planet is a unique person.  Even more so, those of us dealing with this special psychological difficulty are even more unique, if that makes sense.  On this site, we are talking about one of the most complex brain mysteries ever and it expresses itself through every person differently.  Every case is going to have it's own peculiarities and all we are able to do in the articles on the site is speak in generalities.  We invite anyone to leave appropriate comments and engage in discussion, however we can't take responsibility for their words.  Nor can we take responsibility for the actions of any individual or group who have at one time or another visited our website.

Always Consult a Medical Professional

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Please Be Considerate About Delusions

delusion discussionWe understand that delusions can be very confusing and convincing.  We also understand that delusions can center around topics that simply are too philosophical to be proven wrong or correct and thus are tempting to explore in-depth.  We have no problem with this exploration as long as it is not harmful to those discussing it.  Please use your best discretion in this regard.  If the staff of Schiz Life step in and begin deleting comments or halting a conversation, please respect their decision and understand it is not personal.

Investigating delusions is encouraged.  Delusions are interesting due to their nature of being understood as strange and outside the norm of the culture of the experiencer, but there is a vast number of individuals visiting this site from many cultures.  There is a subtle difference between discussing these topics, and encouraging or trolling.  Please find that balance and abide by the above suggestions.

We also, under no circumstances, will tolerate anyone discussing or suggesting harming themselves or others.  Past-tense symptom discussion in this regard is fine, but nothing in the future tense will be allowed.

General Discussion Guidelines

We encourage discussion in the comments as much as possible and are looking into offering a forum and personal blogs as well.  In all of these mediums when carrying on conversation, there are some useful questions to ask yourself before posting that comment or response.

The main question to ask yourself is the following:

Is what I'm about to post going to help and support or will it further entrench illness and suffering?

Please consider this as you enjoy Schiz Life.  Try not to post angry or hurtful comments.  Try not to criticize or blame others.  Be as supportive, encouraging, and respecting as you can.  Accepting and negotiating differences is key to carrying on constructive conversation.

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