- Mental Health
Dealing With Schizophrenia Without Much Medication
Schizophrenia Care On Own
Before I proceed, please be aware I am not a subject matter expert/guru in mental science, neither did I study medicine. The following is based on my own experience with the disease combined with that of my mom. As I am coping good enough to run own business, I thought I should share the following as it may help people in preparing for the disease.
Remember there is no cure for schizophrenia, you need to identify, suppress the symptoms and stay determined not to sway into the virtual world your brain starts creating for you.
You will need to:
1. Be on watch for symptoms;
2. Stay strong enough not to let the illness take over;
3. Understand how to get help in dealing with the symptoms to prevent the illness from spoiling your life...
As long as you are able to identify and deal with schizophrenia symptoms, you are winning over the disease. We will talk only about this part - winning over the illness that may take you into a whole different, personal world that does not exist anywhere in reality. We will talk about the points listed above and in course, discuss the best methods to stay secure.
How May A Person Acquire Schizophrenia? (And Symptoms)
The most common reason is acute depression that leads to loneliness where a person may start developing alternate behaviors. In other words, the person starts withdrawing from the society to create her or his own world where she/he finds solace and security.
In such cases, though you see and hear others in the society, you still carry your own world with you and use that world to view the real society. That way, you feel better when dealing with others. You assume you are different, that others won't understand you and things like that.
Alternatively, you become defensive. There is nothing wrong in being defensive but in this case, it is overly. You are hurt easily by smallest comment that may not directly be related to you. This may lead to aggressive behavior in many who start preparing mentally to escape or fight anything that they think is coming their way.
Another common reason how a person may acquire schizophrenia is the fear instilled in people by their parents/relatives and/or peers when they were still in developing mode (when the brain was still learning to comprehend the surroundings - including sounds and shapes).
In most cases, this happens when you are a kid. Many parents, unknowingly, instill different types of fears into their kids - fear about supernatural forces; fear of diseases and things like that. Rarest of rare cases, as most people overcome such fears in later stage of life but in some cases, the fears make a permanent mark.
Mom is an example and I will share how fear was planted in her brain in a later blog. Anyway, this leads to OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) where you feel the need to perform certain tasks again and again to feel secure.
The tasks can be anything, as simple as holding on to your mobile phone tightly. You keep it on the desk and you start feeling insecure. Just an example! The OCD leads to depression and suspicion (you start suspecting the motives of people around you and often believe they are out there to harm you).
Another symptom is excessive sleeping - which is not directly related to the disease in question but can be viewed with other symptoms to reach a conclusion.
The third reason is obvious - if any of your parents have the illness, chances are you might get that too. Note that I used 'you might' and NOT 'you will' so there is little to fear in this case.
Chances of Inheriting Diseases
There was an example of computing hereditary diseases probability using pea plants' generations when I was in high school. Can't recall it completely but it said something like one in three siblings of the next generation can be affected.
The gene stays dormant in the other two and may appear in their offspring (again 1 ratio 3).
You may be the lucky one not affected by the genes but still, you should stay alert to identify any signs that may be leading you to schizophrenia.
Remember that mental science is much different than the physical science and nothing can be guaranteed with the former.
Summary: Symptoms Identifying Schizophrenia
Let us just collect the points we talked above. They are symptoms of mental illness. Not each one means schizophrenia. It can be any type of mental disorder - as simple as anxiety disorder. But if too many of these points are visible in a person, the person needs help to deal with schizophrenia.
Here are points to note:
- Distancing self from the society; preferring to stay alone with self;
- Decreasing interactions with external world;
- Increased levels of emotions (especially sadness and a feeling of being rejected by own people - remember it is just a feeling and not true)
- Increased aggressiveness;
- Suspicion (Not being able to comprehend peoples' motives and a feeling that they will harm you or someone you love);
- Excess Sleep (As such, it indicates only depression but if you find this in addition to social withdrawal and abnormal behaviors, you may be heading towards schizophrenia);
- Unusual Statements that do not sound logical (we did not discuss this one above but still, is a point to keep a watch on)
- Sudden change in behavior and attitude: You may not notice it easily but others can (especially, those close to you can identify this change in a very early stage)
The above deals with how to identify schizophrenia and its symptoms. The next two sections in this hub will explain how to keep a watch on the symptoms and control schizophrenia from taking over your senses.
Don't Leave Faith - Trust Someone With Everything
You can take care of yourself only when you know you are suffering from a disease called schizophrenia. You then know that some of your thoughts and perceptions are just a result of that illness and are not true. Your fears are baseless as they are being projected as such by the malfunctioning of a certain part of your brain. All you need to do is to stay strong enough to counter those negative thoughts, anxiety and fears.
Some of you may be atheists. I am not asking you to change your perception of God and start praying. That is not possible easily unless you get to see some miracle. I don't know much about these things so let us leave this topic of atheism and theism. But you do need to trust someone - as explained in the next few para.
The idea behind sharing is to be notified immediately when your behavior, thoughts and mentality starts changing. This could be better achieved if you confide in someone - telling the person you suspect you may acquire schizophrenia. That will make the other party keep a better vigil on you. In some cases, this may lead to what we call - breach of personal space.
You need to find people who are understanding and won't force their opinions on you. It is difficult but not impossible. You need to hunt for such people while you are still sane and in control of your thoughts/fears to some or more extent!
Question is, how do you know if your thoughts are wrong? How to identify true from false? How to know that a certain incident is just a matter of improper perception? There is no computing table as far as I know.
I got my first episode in 1994 when I would stay up all night fearing the unknown. I don't remember what I used to do during the daytime. Probably, I slept throughout as there was no college. Luckily, or rather, by the grace of my God, I was out in a week or so.
My people did not even know I suffered such an episode. I am introvert and generally keep my problems to myself and my God. Mom was already under medications and was sleeping most of the time and dad was always in office.
First Step to Fight Schizophrenia: Share Your Thoughts
- how to note when your behavior starts changing;
- when your thoughts start making you aggressive, suspicious and fearful;
- when the voices you hear do not exist at all or are just a noise somewhere around you; and
- when the things you see do not exist or you simply saw a malformed view of something - due to distorted information processing by the brain
You need someone to trust your secrets with. It can be your partner, friends, parents and even your children. But when dealing with small kids (the ones still in development phase), I would not recommend passing on your fears to them. That is what my mom did and I believed everything she said - eventually ruining my own thought process.
I don't blame her as she did not know what she was doing, plus it was the weakness of my own brain that could not come out of those fears victorious. It was passed on to her by an orthodox family that still believes a lemon has greater role in proper functioning of a vehicle compared to quality of gas and engine oil.
Sometimes, you may not be able to gather enough courage to talk face to face about these fears and thoughts. Technology is a blessing in such cases.
Friends are the best option as they tend to accept you in whatever way you are and if you hurt them with your behavior, instead of moving out of your life, they will tell you that you have hurt them, giving you a chance to apologize as well as to reflect on your position with an eye on schizophrenia. If you have such friends, you are lucky.
You can also try to find people online on social networking sites. It IS possible you may get compassionate people who will want to help you when you post anything depressing. That, in turn, will help you realize you have been going the wrong way and may help to quickly correct yourself.
Strangers Can Help Too...
Another method to know your behavior is changing is to note others' attitude towards you. If it changes negatively, you may conclude you have been doing something wrong. Do not depend on only one opinion. See if more than one person says the same thing.
When I was undergoing the schizophrenic episode, some said I need to learn to be civilized while others said I am too rude. And these were strangers whom I offended outside home! Result? I knew I have been overpowered by schizophrenia and started focusing on improvements. Since it was very initial stage, I was out in no time.
The final part of this hub deals with how to cope and control schizophrenia so that it does not affect your normal life. You will be affected as the disease is bad, very bad. But with some precautions and a little outside help, you should be able to treat schizophrenia without much medications - to control it and lead a normal life both at home and at workplace.
The fundamental point is, don't give up otherwise it will be a fall from where, climbing up would be very difficult.
Am Schizophrenic! Now What?
Once you accept this is just an illness like any other illness, you may move to the next step: contact a counselor. Approaching psychiatrists with all your problems will not help at the very first shot unless you are very lucky.
Most of them will give you medicines that will make you dizzy and worsen problems due to the side effects: irritation, lack of sleep, excess sleep, problem in digestion or even suicidal thoughts.
I recommend contacting a consultant psychiatrist instead of a specialist as the latter may not be much interested in your case. They get many cases of the same nature and use a common formula for everyone.
But your brain is not similar to any other brain outside nor are your thoughts same as those generating in others'. You need special, customized treatment that consultants provide. They will talk with you about your thoughts/fears and help you stay sane by helping you dismiss illusions.
In most cases, you will be able to keep schizophrenia in control simply by attending the counseling sessions. They will train you in identifying right from wrong and to ignore/overcome fears. Some therapists also use cognitive treatment (hypnotic treatment) alongside consultation. They send you into subconscious state and program your brain to be able to identify right from wrong.
If you can get hold of one such therapist, nothing can be more useful in controlling any mental illness. I would again say that you may not be able to find the correct person for you in the very first go. You need to keep hunting for a counselor with whom you feel comfortable enough and who gives you a serious ear.
Keep on Sharing
Sharing will ease your burden. Share with your friends and more importantly, share with your consultant who, with his/her knowledge of brain functions, can talk you into shedding the emotional baggage - including fears and anxiety. It won't be easy always and sometimes you might not want to talk to anyone. If that happens, remember your thoughts will keep on iterating, making it more complex for you to get out of that mental state.
Faith works in such cases. Your faith in your God and/or your faith in your consultant or any other person will help a lot. You don't want to talk? Fine. Send a text or email to someone you know will reply. It can be your counselor, a childhood friend, your partner or even your child.
As long as you do not let those fears take over your brain, you are winning. You need to be strong and the source of strength can come from anywhere. You have a kid and you want to care for the kid.
That emotion will give you enough strength to cope with these fears and dismiss them. You need to keep it always in mind that these thoughts and fears are just malfunction of the brain.
Mom was obsessed with me. There were times she discontinued her treatment so that she can care for me and my studies. Her love, for me, gave her enough strength to sustain her fears and help me build a career.
Avoiding Chronic Schizophrenia
Staying in touch with your consultant throughout will guide you regarding medication if required. Sometimes, your thoughts may become too intense for anyone to dismiss them just by talking to you.
Staying with a consultant will keep you secure. Your immediate family and friends' circle should be understanding. This, however, is not always possible because the problem with mental illness is that there are no initial physically visible symptoms and people often think that you are doing things on purpose.
It is a good idea to involve your family when you are visiting the counselor. S/he may try and explain your condition to your family so that they do not react adversely to further worsen your condition. Keeping the family in loop with counselor and regular visits to the latter will help you avoid getting into deeper waters.
Well, it sounds easy but in fact, takes much struggle on your part to realize and accept that your brain is malfunctioning. You may have to keep on convincing yourself that all those fears and thoughts are just baseless products of a damaged portion of your brain. In some cases, those fears would keep on coming back, catching you off-guard. If you find it difficult to handle them all alone, trust someone and reach out every time you feel you are losing control. It is easy as long as you are strong.
Remember that even the strongest break down sometimes and this is where you need to survive to avoid schizophrenia episodes that make life a hell. If you able to reach out to the person/entity whom you trust, you will be out in no time.
If you give in to the fear(s), it may take long periods of medication and much trauma before you are able to climb out of the ditch. Not only it affects your mental and thereby physical health but also the health of people who care for you. If you can remember this, you will stay strong to avoid such a condition.
You have to stay secure, so that those dependent on you are safe (or not affected adversely). You have to be strong so that you can continue caring for your loved ones.
One method is to program your brain regarding this. Keep on repeating such things in brain while you are still sane so that it occurs automatically whenever you feel like submitting to those fears.
This is all I have to say. Remember that the above is not a final report but based entirely on my experience. There are some other methods to stay strong such as
- meditation (Eg. Vipassana);
- chat-groups (Eg. Community Gatherings);
- cognitive training classes (Eg: Art Of Living Classes) and more.
You may want to consider one or more of such options as a precautionary measure. Wishing you all the best!