Patient Blogs | Schizophrenia
What I Wish People Knew About Schizophrenia
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What everyone probably knows is that people with schizophrenia experience hallucinations. The voices I heard sounded oddly real, different from something coming from the imagination. It was odd because I didn’t see anyone, but I somehow believed someone was able to talk to me in this unusual way because I “heard” him.

After telling a friend what was happening to me, she exclaimed, “Someone was talking to you all this time and we didn’t know?!” Before I told her, she didn’t know why I was being antisocial and quiet. No one else besides me “heard” him.

Following much reflection about schizophrenia, instead of thinking I was abnormal or sick, I knew what I was experiencing was not quite right. I believe that any normal person presented with an abnormal situation wouldn't be able to behave as customarily expected, but would act in a new or unpredictable way because of the circumstances.

What did I do when I heard talking but didn’t see anyone in the room? I listened and tried to figure out what “he” wanted from me. Even though my brain created the talking, it didn’t feel like it came from me. I had no control over “him.” Different people can react differently. Someone might shout at “him,” or try to hit “him,” or run away. Regardless of how one reacts to talking voices, the consistent part is that a lot is going on even though other people are not aware of it.

When I was in the middle of a psychotic episode, my friends knew something was wrong with me. Everyone was trying to figure out what to do, but no one knew the best solution.

I was patient and open and used logic, which all failed. My friends took me to see a psychiatrist, to the ER, and to my primary care doctor, which deescalated the situation somewhat. They also called my parents for help, who were scared for me but didn’t know any better.

For a long while, my friends thought that I was fine when I started taking medication. Taking medication eliminated the voices, which was the most disruptive symptom I experienced, but didn’t solve my schizophrenia fully. I was still confused by what had happened and what I remembered. The drug didn’t adjust my memories, thoughts, or logic. I had to correct my thinking with affirmations like, “No, he touched his nose because it was probably itchy. He wasn’t sending me a secret message.” “No, no one dedicated a song on the radio to me. I coincidentally loved the song and my taste in music is mainstream.”

Experiencing schizophrenia is complex and unique to each person. I seemed to act unpredictably to others because I was experiencing something unusual that only I knew about. An outsider only saw half of what went on. As much as friends and family tried to help, they were also figuring it out with me. To care for my broken brain, it required not only medication, but changing the way I thought about my experience, love and support from friends and family, and understanding care from a well-suited psychiatrist. It takes time and a village to conquer schizophrenia.



Photo Credit: d3sign / Moment via Getty Images

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Mindy Tsai

Mindy Tsai

Diagnosed since 2004

Mindy Tsai’s schizophrenia surfaced at age 30. Symptom-free for 10 years now, she shares her personal and non-clinical perspective on schizophrenia in her book Becoming Whole, A Memoir. She is passionate about patient advocacy and clinical research. Tsai lives in Massachusetts and works at a digital health consultancy. She enjoys food, books, salsa, piano, walking, and hiking. Connect with Tsai at her website or on Twitter.

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