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Dr. Stajen Warness. Mouse over to see his wife Shazeen. (1976)

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I paid regular visits to Dr. Warness, or Stajen as I came to call him. He kept track of my illness, gave me blood tests, and altered my medication (all natural, no drugs) when necessary. He started me on 1000 M.G. of vitamin B3 three times a day, but when I continued to worsen, he had me take it four times a day.

Stajen was a young doctor who had just started his practice in a small office. He must have had other patients, but during my initial visits I never saw them. His tiny waiting room was always empty. His practice was so quiet that one day I found him sleeping on the couch in the waiting room. Another time I found a ring on the couch that turned out to be his. When I returned it, he was extremely grateful. Maybe it was the ring incident or maybe it was my frequent visits, but I came to know well both Stajen and his wife, Shazeen, who worked as his receptionist.

Over the months that I saw Stajen, and as word spread of a doctor practicing alternative medicine, he quickly acquired more patients. To accommodate his growing practice, Stajen and Shazeen decided to buy a large house that would be both their office and their home. A house so big with its many rooms that others could live there too. But you won't believe what happened next: in the spring of '76 Stajen invited me to live with him and Shazeen. To be precise, he asked me to live and work with them.

Naturally I agreed to move in, nor could I have asked for a more salubrious setting. In the morning I spent a few hours helping in the office, mostly as a receptionist but sometimes as a medical assistant. I wasn't paid, but it kept my room and board costs down and thus stretched my welfare cheques. In the afternoons, after doing some housework, I could relax. I didn't have to worry about meals. Shazeen prepared wonderful, healthy, vegetarian meals. Since I could work and sleep – not to mention see my doctor – under the same roof, there was little need for me to go out. Important since I was still uncomfortable with the world outside.

I wasn't the only patient to live with the Warnesses. They soon invited others so that at any given time I lived alongside one or two other patients. Unlike me they didn't work in the office, but like me they had chronic health issues.

One of these was Robert, an anxious young man who seldom smiled. He was a paranoid schizophrenic and although we both had schizophrenia, how different his world was from mine! When I lost touch with reality it was akin to having a strange dream, whereas Robert lived in a nightmare. He was convinced people were out to get him whenever he stepped outside. For him, every hedge, building or tree could conceal an assailant. After going out and returning, he would tell me in great detail the elaborate schemes he developed to thwart his foes. If, for example, he had to pass close to a bush, he would devise an escape plan in case he was attacked. An ordinary walk was so fraught with danger that he counted himself lucky to make it home alive. However, nothing ever befell Robert. There were no assassins, of course, but he carefully kept up his defenses anyway. He didn't stay long with us so I never learned if he benefited from Stajen's care.

I didn't have a firm grip on reality myself, but Stajen was taking good care of me. He continued to observe my progress, often adding to my regimen of pills. And I took a lot of them. Most important were the two 500-milligram pills of B3 that I took four times a day. To balance that, I consumed four tablets of 1000 mg of vitamin C daily. Also to counteract the huge amount of B3, I had to take other B vitamins or else risk becoming deficient in them. As well, I swallowed vitamin A and E capsules. I took zinc, since schizophrenics are known to be zinc deficient. I downed supplements I didn't understand, such as kelp. Eventually, I was taking 78 pills a day, so many that I learned to gulp down two dozen at once with only a mouthful of water.

Meanwhile I bided my time in the big, green house on 17th Avenue. For a doctor's house, it wasn't as sedate as one would expect, even outside office hours. Aside from friends and relatives who dropped in on the Warness es., we had patients-turned-friends that often visited. Occasionally too, Stajen entertained doctors and health specialists from out of town.

Months passed and all those vitamins apparently took affect. Not only did the progression of my illness halt, but I slowly improved. My hallucinations became less frequent. To check my progress, I need only peer out a window to see if the outside world appeared normal. Eventually it did.

By the summer of '76 the outside looked like it should, at least in daylight. Also my energy was coming back. Overall I was feeling much better. I couldn't afford to drive so I got around by bike. When I felt well, I cycled to Prince's Island Park and played frisbee.

By the summer of '77, after taking megavitamins for three years, I began to extend my activities. Although my energy fluctuated and left me enervated on some days, on my good days I felt strong enough to do long hikes. And my motivation was returning. One day I even climbed Mount Temple, a 3500-metre peak.

By then I had been living and working with the Warnesses for so long we were like family, and like a family, we discussed many things at the dinner table, including patients that passed through our office. One evening our talk turned to a new patient, Sherry. I had ushered her into the office that morning and taken her medical history. And I was smitten with her. She was young and attractive, but it was her poise and intelligence that won me over. Throughout my stay with the doctor while I got better, I had socialized but never dated, but now I was considering asking someone out.

However, at the dinner table it wasn't me who broached the subject of dating Sherry; it was Stajen. Without looking up from his dinner plate, he casually said to me, “If I were you I would go after Sherry.” I remember the moment clearly. Attitudes were much more relaxed in the '70s than they are now, but even so I was surprised. Never before had Stajen made such a suggestion. Needless to say, I was delighted to hear it. I took my doctor's advice and called Sherry.

Several months later, after an unusual courtship, I finally got together with Sherry. By then I was ready to move out of the doctor's home.

I lived with the Warnesses. for over two years and I am forever indebted to them. If I hadn't met Stajen, if I hadn't lived with him and his wife, and if I had taken antipsychotics instead of vitamins, I believe that at least for a few years, my life and possibly my sanity would have had a different outcome. Dr. Stajen Warness still practices alternative medicine in Calgary.

At the doctor's house (1976)

In my bedroom, dressed for working in the doctor's office. Behind
me is my eight-foot water bed. (1976)

Backpacking on Sentinel Pass (1977)

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