Schizophrenia is a term that has a lot of stigma around it. The modern Latin word descends from the compilation of the Greek words ‘skhizein’, which means split, and ‘phren’, which translates as mind.
The diagnosis itself means different things for different people. Often it can result in a multiple personality disorder; other times it can consequence in mania and psychosis. For me, it categorises itself as a failure to know what’s real and what’s not.
I had my first hallucination at the tender age of nine. I was sitting in my 3rd class classroom, when I saw a black figure glide across the room towards the door. These illusions continued for my pre-teen and adolescent years, and for a long time I was sure that I had a clairvoyant touch that allowed me to see things that other people could not.
At age sixteen I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. I was medicated and received cognitive behavioral therapy. The hallucinations continued and the episodes of psychosis began, the first one being the night before my Leaving Cert results. The psychiatrist deemed it as a panic attack and the branding of anxiety stuck by these attacks for the next few years.
It wasn’t until I reached the stage of college that I realized that the things I was seeing were not normal. I began to believe everyone around me was an imposter; people who had been planted in my life to attempt to ruin my chance of living peacefully.
There were episodes when I would lose full control of my body, which often resulted in a screaming fit and being petrified of my parents, as I was adamant in convincing myself that these people were not who they said they were, and began to believe that I was living in a world similar to that of The Truman Show.
I convinced myself that the world around me had been constructed artificially, that every character in this false reality had an objective to unravel my every thought and take control of my life. These episodes continued for months, when finally I sought help.
I told the psychiatrist of all the symptoms that were occurring, which turned out to be the symptoms of schizophrenia. It was a devastating blow, mainly due to the stigma around it. I used to think people with such an illness were psychopaths, real proper maniacs who had no chance of a life.
Yet, here I am, attending college and taking part in extra curricular activities like a normal human being, regardless of this mental health issue. Sure, I still have bad days, but everyone does. With the right medication and correct therapy, it doesn’t have to be an illness associated with tragic mania. Instead, it is one of life’s many obstacles that will have to be worked through daily.
Mental health illnesses do not have to be a monstrous concept that get in the way of life, but instead, with the right treatment, they can often be a blessing in disguise. As much as I hate having this sickness, it has given me a new appreciation of life, a gratitude toward my physical health and the health of others around me.
Most importantly, it has brought awareness to the subject of mental health and the importance of sharing and talking about problems. No matter how big or small the problem is, sharing the problem always makes the load that bit lighter.
If you have been affected by the content of this article you can contact Shine’s helpline on 1890-621631 (Monday – Friday 9am-4pm ). Shine is the Irish national organisation that supports people affected by schizophrenia.