What is it like to be Schizophrenic?
I have written a fair mount about how I don’t view my being Schizophrenic as an illness. This in itself seems like a bold claim given the way that society has pathologised anyone who (by means of their bodyminds neurology) can not perform neuronormativity. Neurotypicality has been set as a standard for how one should embody themselves with everything outside of it being viewed as illness.
What I feel is necessary is to position my Schizophrenic bodymind within the experiences that it creates. It is also important at this point to note how one’s environment plays a role in the generation and sustenance of those experiences. I can not actually point to a single “Schizophrenic experience” (if such a thing exists in such explicit terms) that was not triggered by the affordances of my environment.
Schizophrenia is strange. Much like autism, it is not a separate entity to myself awaiting removal, but it is also somewhat like a travelling companion that might not always give you the best advice. At times, you are certain it is trying to kill you.
I live my life with a certain level of paranoia. My mind is one that will assume people intend to harm me. I am often somewhat concerned with non-existent conspiracies that centre around others’ meaning to harm me. For the most part, I can look past it. 99% of the time, these are fleeting thoughts. Occasionally, they will take hold, creating anxiety and fear that I often mask. It is rarely perceptible to others, or even of note in it’s affect on my outward behaviour.
I have largely learned to co-exist with myself.
Perhaps more distressing are hallucinations. When the episodic nature of my schizophrenia is ramping up, I can hear multiple voices. Often, these voices will stoke the fires of paranoia. They not only talk directly to me but also to each other. At my worst, I live with a constant and derogatory commentary who will not interact with me.
When I hear these voices, they sound as real as talking to a friend in person. Usually, they are disembodied. Sometimes, they emanate from electronic devices.
I have visual hallucinations that look as real as you or I, I see things that defy description in any language I have access to. Reality during an episode can become somewhat of an abstraction.
Perhaps most frustrating is that at the very height of an episode, I can loose control of my speech. My mind will race so fast and jump from topic to topic in a way that I can not verbally communicate. It is perhaps the scarier of the traits; it feels like I am communicating fine, but all people hear is gibberish.
The final aspect I would like to consider is delusions. This is the culmination of all the experiences that alter my beliefs about the world around me. The world I believe in feel 100% real. No amount of evidence or discussion can shift these beliefs. If anything, I cling to them more so.
Despite these terrifying experiences, I co-exist with this aspect of my bodymind. I have come to learn a great deal about who I am and what my desires are through the ways that my mind alters reality. I have come to understand that psychosis is protective. When reality is too much, my mind creates a more acceptable reality. Or at least, one that I can understand more easily.
I am at peace with who I am. I have come to realise that the people who fear me for being Schizophrenic are victims of a system that has positioned people like me as dangerous, despite evidence to the contrary.
I want others who are Schizophrenic or experience psychosis to know that I see them. I know the isolation that our minds can create. I know how it feels to have to question your thoughts constantly, to wonder what is real, and what your mind has generated.
I want you to know that even at your most lonely, there are others our there who get it, we know, we care. The world is brighter for having diversity in it, and we are a part of that diversity.