Life with Schizophrenia


jytfkuyfliurtrk766kurfk3 copyI’ve posted before on my…condition here but never went into much detail of the experience of living with my disorder and how I deal with it. I’ll correct that omission here.

My illness is actually rather humdrum, though debilitating beyond my current ability to describe, the diagnosis being simple schizophrenia with auditory hallucinations, and my experience in living with this issue and its baggage has played a large part in my being a nontheist and skeptic.

I was diagnosed in the early 1980s in my twenties, and showed signs of it from my teens. This had a profoundly negative effect on the formation of my self-image for many years. I’ve had to claw my way to the light, so to speak, to rebuild what my aberrant brain chemistry had taken from me and remake myself from what was left.

It was not a pleasant experience, and I feel no undue pride for myself in the accomplishment. It required the caring assistance over two decades worth of stellar mental health professionals, a loving family, and those few special people I call my friends.

No, I never took drugs of the recreational sort, and my condition is, as far as anyone knows, the result of a perfect storm of heredity and development which came together to nearly drive me into an institution, but fortunately I was never deemed a danger to myself or others by my psychiatrists. I was greatly incapacitated in some ways, but I received my diagnosis and treatment early on, and I was fortunate that I responded well to that.

My early years following my diagnosis were characterised by one emotion — fear — quivering, often paralysing fear of what I might do to those around me, because of my ignorance of the true nature of the voices that haunted me. But commanding as they were, they were never able to make me do as told, but they could make me into a quaking wreck with that fear of what they might make me do. Not once did I obey them, though they terrified me. I would not wish those horrific experiences on even my worst enemy.

To this day I laugh at the idea of a literal, biblical Hell. Fire? Really? Try having your mind turned inside out by a brain disorder, then you may talk to me about pain. Hell seems too childish compared to what I went through. It ranks to me as one of the great failures of the human imagination.

Nothing, no physical pain I’ve ever felt, that I know of, compares to the mental agony that those with this family of disorders have gone through. I couldn’t simply pull myself away from the source of the pain to staunch it, as it was literally all in my own head. Early on, the episodes would last for hours, I cowering in my room with ranting, horrid, malevolent voices screaming, their leering faces seen, fortunately, only in my mind’s eye — I’ve a vivid imagination, though I have been very fortunate not to have a history of visual hallucinations — the voices alone were torture enough.

Time passed, and I learned to ignore the voices, because then I understood their true nature, I knew what they could and couldn’t do, and to this day I take my medication regimen seriously, and I’m extremely wary of any tendencies for delusion that show themselves. I no longer fear the voices, nor do I believe what they say. There is no reason to. And every reason not to.

I’ve developed a good understanding, a reliable though not perfect, insight into my own thoughts, beliefs, motivations, and biases. I scrutinize them regularly, guarding my perspective on reality and assessing my reasoning for any fallacies of I may commit.

Doubt, in the form of self-questioning, has become an integral part of my daily routine, and that doubt has over years proven, I’ve discovered, toxic to religious faith. For me, doubt has eroded faith, as my former faith once denied doubt.

Metacognition and its attendant self-scrutiny has become for me, a tool for survival — the survival of the mind. It’s also responsible for some of my ‘blue’ moments online and blogging, not enjoyable.

It was only in late 2006 that I identified with either modern atheism or scientific skepticism, taking up the latter as a tool to defend my thoughts from the spectre of self-delusion and of deception by others, hearing for the first time a podcast, ‘The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe,’ soon followed by others. I’ve been listening ever since.

But I wonder if I would really like to be cured of my illness if such a treatment were possible. I don’t know. At this stage in life, it has caused great disability, but also feeds my creative bent with those odd little free associations, and peculiar patterns that come to mind, though I fully recognize that often, they don’t exist, and it’s obvious that they don’t. I’m very careful about believing what I think, and especially what I hear.

It would be wonderful to permanently correct my brain chemistry and alleviate the cognitive issues; the problems with thought disorganization, the false pattern recognition, and so on.

But that doesn’t look like it’s happening anytime soon.

So I’m scrupulous about staying on my treatment plan, and I recommend the same to anyone with a disorder anything at all like mine. I keep on it, because quite frankly, I know quite well what life will be like if I don’t.

And living like that frightens me more than any idea of an unpleasant afterlife, however ‘eternal,’ that anyone can concoct. If he were still alive, I’d give Dante Alighieri a little tour of the darkest corners of my mind, and then we would see of what torment he would write.

About Troy Loy

I seek to learn through this site and others how to better my ability as a person and my skill at using my reason and understanding to best effect. I do fractal artwork as a hobby, and I'm working to develop it to professional levels, though I've a bit to go till I reach that degree of skill! This is a crazy world we're in, but maybe I can do a little, if only that, to make it a bit more sane than it otherwise would be.

Posted on Thursday, 0:30, March 20, 2014, in Musings & Ponderings. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Dante really wasn’t all that imaginative… what a fine take on the whole thing!

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    • Thanks. It is something that I thought needed to be said.

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      • I can’t say that I could even imagine what life has been like for yourself. I think a lot about thinking and the mind. Still, conditions such as your own baffle me.

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        • It baffled me at first, but after time, experience, and a lot of reading up on it, understanding came. It would be wonderful to know what it is like to live without it, but wishful thinking does me little good.

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          • I experimented with hallucinogenics for a time. Understanding what it feels like to experience the world in a way that is known to be untrue is something I kind of understand. Sitting still on the lawn listening to the tree talk and not acting like I can hear it… and a few episodes like this but I knew I was stoned. If it happened when I know I am sober I don’t know how to deal with that. Not knowing what is real and what is not must be terribly frightening. Dante was not so imaginative.

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            • I have learned to be careful of trusting what I hear There should somewhere nearby be a clear source of the sound or speech or it becomes immediately suspect. Also a good idea is to cross-check what I seem to hear with those nearby who know me, or very discretely with others. Because I may misinterpret what I perceive by other means, checking with others is still a good idea. I am accustomed enough to the nonsense my perceptions may generate that I often just ignore it. Mindfulness and relaxation exercises help too.

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  2. My experience is different, but I sympathize.

    My condition most directly has to do with severe depression which is debilitating and can be dangerous to one’s life when it goes to extremes. Still, while even in the deepest of depressive states, one doesn’t hear voices or see what is not there. If anything, it is quite the opposite. Depression gives one the sense, false or true, of seeing reality clearly and starkly. If a depressed person harms themselves, it probably isn’t because a voice telling them to do so.

    At the time I was diagnosed with depression, I was also diagnosed with a thought disorder or something like that. I still don’t know what that diagnosis was about for it was long ago, but it involved being prescriped Risperdal which is an anti-psychotic. I do know my brain operates oddly and makes unusual connections. This goes back to the learning disabilities I had as a child. Even so, it doesn’t effect my perception in too negative of ways, other than major recall issues I deal with.

    I agreed with what you wrote here:

    “My illness is actually rather humdrum, though debilitating beyond my current ability to describe, the diagnosis being simple schizophrenia with auditory hallucinations, and my experience in living with this issue and its baggage has played a large part in my being a nontheist and skeptic.”

    And here:

    “But I wonder if I would really like to be cured of my illness if such a treatment were possible. I don’t know. At this stage in life, it has caused great disability, but also feeds my creative bent with those odd little free associations, and peculiar patterns that come to mind,”

    My illness is also rather humdrum, although that is more to be expected from depression. When I’m depressed, it is the completely opposite of exciting, but it is captivating to my own mind. It absorbes my full attention when at its worst. These days, however, it is manageable, even the debilitating aspects have been worked into my daily life. It’s just there as background.

    I’ve always been resistant to medications for some reason. In my case, it always made things worse. It built up my sense of hope, only to yet again dash that hope upon the reality of my condition. I’ve found accepting it works better than trying to change it. I figure that I’ll get by, until I can’t.

    My creative and alternative thinking style, along with my skeptical attitude, goes hand in hand with all the rest. I wouldn’t know how to disentangle it all at this point.

    This is where our conditions differ:

    “So I’m scrupulous about staying on my treatment plan, and I recommend the same to anyone with a disorder anything at all like mine. I keep on it, because quite frankly, I know quite well what life will be like if I don’t.”

    I’ve never found a treatment plan that worked. I spent years trying medications and different therapists, but none of it seemed to show any marked improvement. If I did find a workable treatment plan, I’d be right there with you.

    I’ve just learned to accept and work with my dysfunction. I get by, even if barely. It is good enough because it has to be good enough. A big thing for me is maintaining a moderate state of health with exercise and good eating habits. The nice thing about depression is that it is easy to hide. I can have suicidal thoughts while holding down a job and I’ve learned to not to be disturbed by them. They are my thoughts, not voices coming from unknown sources. I don’t fight these thoughts or give them much heed. They are just there.

    This is what makes depression in some ways more manageable than some mental health issues and in other ways a lot worse. It is easy for an unmedicated depressed person to act completely normal and no one would know the difference.

    There is interesting research about depression. It often leads to suicide, but it is very difficult to kill oneself. It usually takes around 7 attempts before someone succeeds. Also, the longer one is depressed, the less likely one is to commit suicide. Depression easily becomes a normalized state of being, even in its severest forms. Something like schizophrenia, on the other hand, never becomes normalized. Some mental issues are easier to hide and others not so much.

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  3. you have been through hell! you are a really brave person. Hope and pray it will never get upper hands on you! ever!

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    • Thanks, Trisha, but I’m not all that brave: the worse thing that could happen is to just give up and let it destroy one thing I do believe in: the sanctity of the human mind. I’ll have plenty to time to relax, to stop fighting this, once I’m dead. And NOT by my own hand! Then, and only then.

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