I cried while looking at this tiny, round, white pill in my hand and thought about flushing it down the toilet. Why am I taking this? What does it mean? To me, taking medication meant something was wrong with me. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me.
The first time I saw a psychiatrist, I was catatonic and taken by two of my close friends. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t sleep at night; my mind racing with thought and hearing nonstop talking in my room.
I called one friend. He came to pick me up right away around four o’clock in the morning. As soon as he could, he got me an emergency appointment through his own doctor. He and the other friend talked to the doctor for me. I’m not sure how much they knew or what they had said. Perhaps they received a diagnosis from the doctor. I didn’t. I don’t remember taking medication for the first time, but it knocked me out for a few days and cleared my mind. Then I was told, “Take this pill every day and you’ll be fine.”
I took a pill every night, but I wasn’t fine. I struggled without personally knowing what my diagnosis was nor having any understanding of the condition I had. The medication was effective in stopping the voices talking, or auditory hallucinations, for the most part.
But I was still confused about what I had experienced: a young man talking to me and trying to impress me by playing my favorite songs on the radio; his friends sending me special messages with signs in the movie theaters and restaurants. Medication didn’t rewrite or erase those memories for me.
I needed an explanation for what I heard and felt, what I remembered. I want to find out the truth! In my mind, I retraced my steps and relived those memories over and over again when I was alone. In addition to old memories, sometimes I heard new voices talking. I couldn’t speak to my doctor about managing symptoms because I didn’t know what I experienced was related to a condition and could be managed.
I needed to figure out what was happening to me. This is my life! On my own, I corrected some confused thoughts. But the real turning point came when a team of doctors and nurses in a hospital became my caregivers. They talked to me and helped me connect the dots slowly. I finally gained awareness. My own brain created all those unexplainable experiences, the voices, the signs. It was me, my brain!
Now I was in the right frame of mind to speak to a doctor. “What do I have?” I asked my doctor knowing now that I had a medical condition. “Schizophrenia,” he replied. I finally heard a diagnosis after taking medication for 8 years.
After receiving my diagnosis, I was able to learn more about schizophrenia and have meaningful conversations with my psychiatrist and therapist. I participated in managing my own condition. I realized that my brain was broken and needed help. It could be fixed through taking medication consistently, having plenty of sleep, reducing unnecessary stress, and getting help quickly when new symptoms flared up.
Knowing that I have schizophrenia, putting a name on it, then understanding and accepting it as the first step toward managing it, I can now live a healthier life.
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