What it's Like to Have Schizophrenia
A Difficult First Step
I have schizophrenia, or schizo-affective disorder.
Schizophrenia: Hearing voices, having hallucinations, believing delusions, engaging in "wishful"/fantasy thinking, and what I call "becoming internal" which means getting wrapped up in a storyline in my head and interacting with voices I hear more than the outside world. Schizophrenia also includes a lack of insight, which means crazy happens.
Schizo-affective disorder: Having the above, but symptoms manifest depending on mood or emotion and can go away altogether.
I've had different diagnosis-es so we'll just go with Schizophrenia. I've debated about writing about this but thought I would for a couple of reasons:
- Get it off my chest/for myself in my recovery.
- To put some myths to rest.
- To support other schizophrenics out there, and/or friends/family members of schizophrenics.
- Honestly I am a little greedy and would like this article to earn me some money. I don't think that invalidates my message though. Sorry if you think this makes me a bad person.
This is a hard article to write for personal reasons, as I'm sure you can imagine. Not everyone in my life knows I have schizophrenia. Those who do have been nothing but supportive.
Different Personalities? No.
Some people think that having schizophrenia means that I must have different personalities inside me. That's a myth. Schizophrenia is all about the voices and/or hallucinations.
I'm on medication, but the kind I take doesn't get rid of the voices entirely. They are just quieter and feel more away from me than closer to me. There is medication that will silence the voices entirely, but my psychiatrist told me the side effects are greater. I opted for less side effects and quieter, occasional voices.
I was hit by a car in 2008. The back of my head cracked the lady's windshield and I suffered a concussion and a lot of aches and pains and soreness for quite some time. My neck vertebrae is still out of alignment. I have read that schizophrenia can follow head trauma, and this may be where my schizophrenia comes from. There may also be a genetic component, but I won't say more on that account.
I began hearing voices around 2009. It was startling and small at first, and then began to take over my life. I heard voices constantly that commented on me, my every choice, and that told me stories about my future that I found very interesting. It was entirely astonishing and unreal, but it was happening.
Somehow schizophrenics make illogical connections in their minds and begin believing things that don't make sense but then, somehow do. It's all hard to explain. But it happens, and it happened to me. There is something called "ideas of reference" which means when you hear something, even from a stranger, you interpret it right along with your own view and storyline, as though what this stranger was saying applies to you. I did a lot of that. I also thought things I saw like notes or letters during my day applied somehow ~ like they were signs ~ to me. This is another common thing that happens and can be seen in the movie A Beautiful Mind.
I thought people were coming to see me and would read all kinds of crazy things into normal behavior that I saw or heard around me.
I'm not sure how it is for others with schizophrenia, but for me, I would have episodes where I end up running or standing somewhere with no good reason other than what was going on inside my head. I lost my usual sense of reality and was living internally, in my head, in a strange new world of what seemed like psychic reality. I didn't understand it but I changed a lot during the early stage of my disease, prior to my medication.
- While I enjoyed running initially in small distances (I wrote about training for my first 5K), I began running excessively, not training for a race, but following a game in my head.
- I ran late at night at odd hours that my family and friends thought were dangerous (not me then).
- I lost a lot of weight and scared my family and friends.
- I became internal rather than aware of others as I usually was.
- I exhibited strange behavior, like standing in one place very still for hours, or leaving work and then coming back. This was all because of delusions and assumptions I made from bizarre connections I made in my head.
- I didn't have good answers for the change in my behavior.
- The voices sometimes caused me great anxiety, and I confided to my mother my strange fears ~ it was incredibly difficult to understand or explain them now, so I won't go into details, but I scared my mother who realized there was something wrong.
My parents had me hospitalized and I was put on medication. It hardly fazed me because I was so far in my delusions. I was hospitalized 4 more times and put on medication each time. The fourth time I realized I never wanted to be hospitalized again. But I didn't really believe I needed medication. Over time, not taking my medication, the voices came back steadily. Then it happened. I had a very bad episode and became very internal, not able to relate to my family on Father's Day, where I couldn't even say a word. I knew something was wrong and told my family the truth. They tried to get me help and not soon after I was again hospitalized, the 5th time. I was put again on medication and this time, with an understanding psychiatrist, who talked with me openly about everything related to my condition, I knew I needed to be on medication.
Changing from Delusional
Luckily I never became violent and luckily I am high functioning. I work and I write for Hubpages. I act in plays. I hang out with friends, watch movies, and love to read. Most people, if they did not see me when I was having an episode, would never guess that I am schizophrenic. Every day I work on the old habits of my delusions that I grew to believe and depend on, checking it against what I know reality is based on how I used to be prior to hearing voices, what I used to believe and know.
I would describe schizophrenia delusions like this: It's like taking your most dear inner dream, that you tell no one, and making it attainable through craziness and a reality that is all in your head. So it's a bit embarrassing to realize that it really is all in your head.
Schizophrenia is like seeing a whole new world within reality. That is how it feels at first.
Medication has enabled me to view my schizophrenia as with new eyes. Let's put it like that. Even if I occasionally hear voices, I'm able to stay in reality and not get sucked into an internal world where I lose my contact with others. I'm glad I don't need medication that causes a lot of side effects.
I've come across other treatments for schizophrenia in my online searches for more knowledge. I've heard of treatments that involved family and friends and therapy that work well without medication. There is also a voice-hearers group that is popular in the UK. I feel that it is an individual choice and that you have to look at what is being effective for you.
I am fairly open about my schizophrenia with those I've gotten to know well. I'm able to work and know I must take medication or I risk having another bad episode, which I don't want. My family and friends are very supportive, and for the most part, I forget I have schizophrenia. I'm able to look back over my last few years with understanding.