RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE
by Tracey May
As a child I suffered from Schizophrenia. It robbed me of 21 years of my life. I am now 35 years old and completely recovered. Some things still come up for me, things such as the stigmas and labels. As a survivor it is very upsetting to know that the ones that are not recovered are not getting the proper help they so desperately need.
The voices, delusions, hallucinations and fear of life are now something of the past. I am bothered by the false information that seems to be continuously circulating, not only among mental health professionals but by the general public. I kept my sickness a secret for many years, afraid of what people would think and how they would react to me. After I decided to come forward I was met with disbelief. The possibility of recovery was dismissed. I have learnt from others how most people feel about Schizophrenia. They are confused and afraid. Is it too disturbing to know that Schizophrenia is not a brain disease, nor caused by any biological malfunctions.
I tried to speak of my recovery process but I was turned down flatly. I do not know why but it wont keep me from speaking out. The myths about Schizophrenia need to be dispelled for the millions of individuals who are still suffering with Schizophrenia. I believe a change is coming soon in the mental health system and sufferers are going to want more than a hour session in your office. Schizophrenics are not getting better and everyone knows drug therapy is not the answer. As a recovered Schizophrenic I never used medication to treat my condition. I do not disagree that drugs can be effective in treating patients because they are helpful but they do not cure.
As a survivor of this horrible condition and it is a condition not a brain disorder, I know exactly what it is and what it is not. In order to truly understand Schizophrenia you must decode the language. Not an easy task but something that must be done to help the patient.
Throughout my illness I did not know that I was terribly sick or that the cause of my Schizophrenia was repetitive sexual abuse. How could I because once the condition develops all memories of the cause are erased. In my experience with Schizophrenia a new world of delusions were created in order to survive. Not only did I need to survive I needed to divert my attention by creating a different language. I took what I learned in my environment and distorted it, putting a bunch of words together to further myself from the reality of the present situation. You must remember that the person with this condition will do anything to avoid confronting the cause, it also becomes a defence mechanism. Schizophrenia is an automatic response, it has its logic. If a so called normal person was to be physically violated Schizophrenia would not develop, it has to be a series of disturbing events. Other disorders are present before the onset of Schizophrenia. What happens is when an individual doesnt deal with situations before the onset of Schizophrenia it becomes a build up and it might take one last incident to cause a major disturbance to the psyche. It is that simple.
When I was raped, it would come out as the devil is after my soul or the devil is chasing me. Rape is an act against ones will, so therefore something has to match the experience. To avoid confronting the cause I automatically developed this condition. Schizophrenia has a logic of its own but if you take a closer look, reading whats behind the metaphors and scrambled words clues can be found. I did not have to deal with every incident of abuse, just enough to bring me out of the Schizophrenia. I know there is much more to what happened to me but I chose to leave it alone. The initial cause surfaced, triggered by an event in my life. I chose to get better. I had to deal with Schizophrenia, Post Traumatic Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder and a few others so if you think Schizophrenia is so hopeless, think again.
THE SCHIZOPHRENIC LANGUAGE
1. Covering up the secret of the lies, hiding in cover, Im a undercover detective
from Bakes-Ville. Using white lies to cover up the black lies things become
complicated. When asked questions concerning my family I become tight
lipped. Shutting my mouth with invisible tooth picks I pretend to be a rotten
piece of meat. Nobody knows me as far as anybody is concerned I could be
a Russian Spy. One short answer brief and to the point, hinting for everyone
to back off. The fear of closeness stiffens my posture and within minutes Im
quick to get away.
2. Over a crackling whip, at the edges of my subconscious remembered
occurrences spit out flashes of a pair of worn out work boots. A gliding beer
case hits the side of the fridge. A man with plaid elastic pants jumps on a huge
watermelon with two yellow cat eyes peering into the darkness. With my bed-
room door closed a hissing sound keeps on rapping on my ears. Spinning
like a dancer with a broken leg I try to deaden the incoming traffic. Im looking
for hidden secrets and clues to my existence.
3. The television is speaking in coded messages. The man in the box is telling
me to be quiet. Tuning out, I try to pick up any clues that the world is bent on
killing me. Lost in the chattering voices above my head I stretch my ear trying
to hear the noises that keep on buzzing. The breaking point has come. Running
ahead of me, hallucinations embark on a trail of disfigured faces.
4. In a world that lurks with danger my mind collapses into tiny folding fractions.
The present is disengaged and separated. Compartments of shifting blocks
shift into position, locking the gates and swallowing up the key representing
the truth. Half truths circulate in stop-go motions impairing my ability to focus
on the here and now.
5. Everything is going around in slow motion. The boxes are clanging and
chattering to be let out. Behind my forehead the past is surfacing mixing a
bottle of acid solution. A stake jams a door that leads to a mirage of broken
appearances. Inside a box, pounding fists try to pull down my imagination. The
ground work is split into hundreds of pieces, each fragment is separate as if it
had some kind of individual purpose. The truth is locked up in an unit.
6. If anyone tries to detect me Ill hide behind a clowns mask and pretend
real. The danger of being found persists to scare me. Becoming so absorbed
in new disguises I forget to remember I am made of pain. The genesis of mental
illness is my middle name and the devil certainly does own my soul. Under the
moon personality disorders surface on windmills over a spring of fresh water.
The genuine feeling of sadness and fear are there toppled with candy coating
and sugar bears.
7. The rattling of a garbage can in the back alley nods its lid and a bag lady in
search of some stale bread scratches her knee. Head lice caught in a net, on
top of her head watches for intruders trying to make a get away with her shopping
cart. A laugh and chuckle ring a Church bell, the house is falling and I can see
8. Stone hearted radar waves send out chronic messages to an eager junkie in
search of a fix. Pimps with trap mouths and velvet pumps shoot for the star
birds flocking around silver beads. The chamber of death peaks with dejection
and shallow graves plunge into the two faces of Freud. Stencil heads with pepper-
mint mouths are trying to lure me in, to exploit my rights. The fast trickster with the
boots of fire stalk the streets looking for sugar and with a turn of a cheek he sneaks
into a cheat.
9. Out of a patch of strawberry fields a blank form zooms down in a cradle of fears
and sitting on my limbs distant sounds gnaw away at my self worth. My face is
swarming around, a broken mirror I hide in my pocket. I would like to smash my
body against a marble table and with a machine gun I would like to blow out my
brains just to keep the shadows from following me.
10. Pumpkin carriages and blazing whips tease my outer limbs to turn around and
and look into the silence. Skipping ropes and candy sticks brake at my knees,
spinning in a time machine. Lost in travel I spiral to the bottom. Theres
something wrong with the channel. The boxes are shifting, slightly ajar a
pamphlet falls out of a file and before my eyes a little girl is there.
I would like to say that for each person the cause is different. Behind the language there is a story to be told. And trust me people with Schizophrenia want to tell. Unfortunately I was not able to open up to anyone. I can remember sitting in front of a psychiatrist, terrified and not able to speak. The room was spinning and I felt sick to my stomach. The urge to run was powerful. I remember the psychiatrist taking notes and not once did he really look at me. There wasnt any direct contact made. I dont remember any of his questions and when he spoke the voices in my head grew louder creating a barrier, my defences were up and I believe if he would of asked any intrusive questions I would of probably attacked him either verbally or physically. If forced to confront my condition I would of fought desperately to hang onto my illness. Nobody was going to expose me by trying to open me up and explore the reasons I was sick in the first place. There was no way I was going to feel anything. I wanted the pain buried. In a way I think that mental health professionals let me off the hook and enabled me to take the easier way out. Never was I asked to change my behaviour nor was it challenged. I know deep down someone could of connected with the part of me that was terrified. There was a part of me that wanted to open up. I certainly didnt have the words to express my desires for change.
There was no where to hide or run except behind my dirty clothes and body. My appearance kept everyone at a distance. I believe that maybe if I was confronted directly by a therapist just maybe I would of not spent a good part of my life being sick. Although it is tragic that I lost a lot of years, what is really tragic is that people working with Schizophrenics are not reaching their patients. When I think of the times that I was living on the streets, homeless and helpless it makes me feel sad because in a huge way I was abandoned. I was societys unwanted. I slept in parks with the rest of the outcasts, stealing food from grocery stores and living a meaningless existence. I felt empty, void of any connection to the outside world. Schizophrenia was my home.
After recovery I have learnt that I am not much different from you. I am called a normal person now and I think to myself if people would of known me years ago they would of not believed that I was the same person. My thoughts are now connected with my feelings. I laugh and cry when it is appropriate. There are no psychotic breaks or violent behaviours. Sometimes I feel guilty still, but I know now that it is useless to feel guilty because I know I need to let go of what was then and move forward. Schizophrenia was not something I asked for or wanted to experience. I have learned to have fun and enjoy the company of others. I like to be alone and then there are times when I like to socialise. I have a loving relationship with a man, this is my greatest accomplishment because before closeness was not possible. To be loved by someone I would of never imagined could be so beautiful. I absolutely love being hugged. Respecting others boundaries and knowing my own took a long time to establish. I have the same needs as everyone else and I have learnt to ask for what I want. Before I would have never looked in a mirror at myself because I thought I was the ugliest person on earth but now I see who I am really am. Im okay the way I am. I can actually take care of myself now. The recovery process was hard and a lot of personal work, the only thing I regret is that I had to go it alone. It would of been easier to have the proper help and someone willing to work with me. During my recovery process I lost my family physician, among others, because she did not know how to deal with me, if only she would of had the experience to help me.
I was a chronic case, paranoid Schizophrenic was my label. I was considered a hopeless case, the one who was societys unwanted. My sanity has been restored and I wont be developing Schizophrenia again. I am free to live a normal life. Since dealing with the cause head on, I no longer dwell on the past because why take more years from my life. But I know I had to deal with a lot of issues before I got to the place where I am now. In my case it took only a month to come out of Schizophrenia and three years to recover fully, compared to the years being sick it was well worth it. I recovered on my own so just imagine how you can help speed up the recovery process. Maybe while you sit in front of a patient they are waiting for you to approach them. If you know what Schizophrenia is and have any insights into how to help your patients, take the time to help them because it could be you someday who develops this condition. How would you feel to be totally abandoned and left on the streets because people viewed you as unfit to be a part of society. When you are enjoying the full benefits of living a normal life, doing things like connecting with your family, working and thriving towards a healthier life style, what makes you think a Schizophrenic is unworthy of the same things you have in life. Why are others making the decision of life or death for these very needy individuals. They need your compassion and help. Why deny them the opportunities that you have been given in life. As a survivor I know I cant walk away and I will do everything in my power to be heard and when someone stops to listen just maybe a change will happen, until then Schizophrenics will continue to suffer needlessly because of the decisions of others. This is the great tragedy of Schizophrenia. Only you know the reasons why you can not help and when the time comes when Schizophrenics have more say in what they want what will be your excuse in why you didnt help. Are you just going to say I did not know how to help, or you know so little about Schizophrenia that you were not in the position to reach out. What are you going to tell families and the public when confronted with why nothing was done. Are you going to deny the general public the truth about Schizophrenia, lead them to believe that Schizophrenia is an incurable brain disease. I know there are the ones who go out of their way to help and support their patients. Doing everything possible to ensure that Schizophrenics get a fair shake in life, thank you for your efforts because without people like you there would not be any hope. For the ones that dont, shame on you for allowing the myths to continue.
The recovery process is different for each person, it might take three years or ten years but what does it matter when you could play an important role in helping someone get better.
I was terrified, Schizophrenia was my safe zone. When I think of how awful Schizophrenia really is and what it does to a persons psyche I am stunned at the fact that professionals are not doing more to help them. Schizophrenia is a lonely terrifying world where the madness is incredibly frightening. Put yourself in their shoes and get a sense of what it would be like to be cut off from others without an escape, only the madness. A Schizophrenics world is real to them in every aspect of the condition. Its no wonder a lot of them give up. I can not tell you enough how horrible this condition is and how it destroys the possibility of living a normal life. When a Schizophrenic is smiling she is really crying. When a Schizophrenic is talking in a language you do not understand they are trying to communicate something to you. It could be a cry for help. Just last week I read a story in a newspaper about how a teenager with Schizophrenia jumped off a bridge and killed himself. I was thinking to myself, how this could of been me. Why is this happening? It shouldnt be.
At times when I am just doing something as normal as taking a walk I think back to when I was sick, all that isolation and distance between me and others. I am certainly grateful that I took the risk by confronting my illness. Feelings of regret still linger for all the wasted years, sometimes I cry because of the things I have missed out on but I know with each new insight into who I am, life is certainly becoming more of a gift rather a curse. I am now no longer a threat to myself or others. I am a responsible member of society. A place where I always wanted to fit, I am no longer that person that needed to be hidden or removed from mainstream society.
Sometimes when I see Schizophrenics who have not recovered on the streets I watch them display their odd behaviours, talking to themselves and acting strange and I say to myself I know where they are. I was once one of them. Its too bad others who are not well informed do not know how horrible their inner lives are, robbing them of the right to live life to the fullest. As a person who can identify with them I wish people would reach out to them because anyone can develop Schizophrenia. If you could take them off the streets and help them recover, they would look no different from you. They deserve to recover, just like I did.
I do not feel any shame for being a victim of Schizophrenia. I do not need to hide from society keeping my past a secret. I want my story told. After I put my story on paper, I left it in my desk drawer for a long time but I decided why should I be afraid of people finding out about my past, why should I be ashamed of who I was, why should I hide my recovery becauseł of the stigmas. What does it matter if people call me crazy, deny me the right to speak out and who am I protecting by keeping silent, myself, families or the people who claim to be the ones helping. Am I afraid of not being believed, am I afraid of what others might think, yes at the beginning but I realised by being quiet I would be denying myself and others the right to totally heal. Throughout my recovery I have lost friends because of their fear but I know now that it isnt my problem it is theirs because to be me I have to stand up to what I believe in and what is the right thing to do. I am stronger than my fears. Schizophrenia has taught me that I can survive what ever anybody throws my way.
There are thousands of survivors who have kept silent for way to long and by saying Schizophrenia is an incurable brain disease it is only adding to the confusion of what Schizophrenia really is and what causes it. In order for me to tell my story I need mental health professionals to stop hiding the causes from the public. And if you are not sure what Schizophrenia is, just say so. As a survivor I want more for sufferers and more for myself. I want to be able to talk about my recovery and not be looked upon as if I was somehow making the whole thing up. This condition is so serious. How much longer do you think sufferers are going to be kept hidden and quiet. Certainly the time will come when the victims will be asking for more from you. How much longer is it going to take for everyone to open their eyes to the truth about Schizophrenia. I am not willing to close my eyes any longer. How can someone ignore the fact that people are killing themselves in order to escape the horrors of Schizophrenia. How much longer do you think patients are going to accept medication as the only means of dealing with symptoms. The millions of dollars used to find new drugs as a form of treatment could be used for recovery. Schizophrenia does not have to be a life long illness. People can recover and will continue to recover. Theres nothing worse than reaching out for help and finding the door closed in your face. If I was asked what I wanted changed in the mental health system, it would be more money spent on rehabilitation programs, housing and job opportunities. I also think it is important that recovered Schizophrenics are integrated into society and accepted. Schizophrenia doesnt have to remain a secret. It doesnt have have to be hidden. Times are changing, such things as sexual abuse, child abuse, drug abuse and other taboos are finally out of the closet, it wont be long before Schizophrenia and its secrets are exposed.
I was searching on the Internet looking for other survivors and I was alarmed at the hundreds of sites about Schizophrenia explaining to its viewers that Schizophrenia is a brain disorder. The only thing I was wondering is why someone would want to insist that Schizophrenia is an incurable brain disease. How is this helping the sufferer. I think people can deal with the truth concerning the condition. Why not begin the real work and help those in need recover. Some sites even have warnings that people who are claiming to know the cause or claiming that they have recovered should not to be believed because it gives sufferers and families false hope. Isnt it hope we are looking for, or do we want to wait another hundred years for someone to finally bring things out in the open. I have talked with many Schizophrenics who have chosen to believe Schizophrenia is an incurable brain disease and I know why because Schizophrenia for most is safer. Why cant they be given the option of choosing between Schizophrenia and recovery.
After stumbling onto http://schizophrenia-help.com/, I was quite surprised at the material. I couldnt believe that the founder Jack Rosberg understood the Schizophrenics language and knew the correct facts about Schizophrenia. As he says, it is a survival mechanism. I like the way he tells it like it is and his direct approach to such a simple condition. I support what he says because as a survivor I am in the position to tell you also what it is and what it is not. I think other mental health professionals should follow his direction. He certainly is a man that knows what he is talking about.
Please help the millions of sufferers who desperately need your understanding and support. Never give up on your patients because they want your help even if they can not express it in words. As much as they will resist, there will be a part of them that will want you to reach them. Behind the mask of Schizophrenia, there is a healthy part that you can connect with. Behind the rage and psychosis, they are waiting for you to confront them directly. Never be discouraged because Schizophrenia is not as hopeless as you might think.
During my illness I know I pissed a lot of people off. I could bring out the worst in anybody, it was a part of my defence system. I would purposely manipulate any situation to change the tables and put the spot light on those who tried to interfere in my illness. I hung onto my illness as if it was a life preserver. I was an expert in mind games. I would abuse, lie and drive anyone away who tried to break down the barriers which kept me safe. There was a few times when a couple of social workers asked me if I was sexually abused and it triggered something deep within me. At the time the words were not available because my illness hid the truth from my awareness but the question startled me. In a way I did not want to run, I wanted to talk but I did not know how. If I would of felt safe enough I think the cause would of surfaced. I replied no to the question concerning sexual abuse and walked away but deep down I wanted to stay. I think it would of been a good opportunity for the social worker to probe a little deeper.
When recovery happened I must of looked like something out of a exorcism. The emotional pain of bringing everything into my conscious awareness scared a number of people. I had no where to turn and no where to run. I did reach out for help through my family physician but I think she was afraid herself, she dropped me as a patient and I was left to go it alone. Every feeling that had been buried came out in full force. Every incident of abuse rushed to the surface. I couldnt make up my mind to medicate myself or commit myself to a hospital. I chose neither, I wanted to feel every ounce of my pain. Inside my bedroom I spent four weeks screaming, sobbing and doubled over in pain. I laid there in a fetal position for hours. I lost a lot of weight, my body had a severe reaction while I let go of the pain. I actually thought I was going to have a heart attack. Flashbacks of certain events became real and terrifying. I thought I was back in the past where the sexual abuse happened. Things became so clear, reality put me in a whirlpool of emotions. To keep emotionally grounded I hung onto the sight of my bedroom. I put signs up on my walls that said things like, Im okay, it wont last forever and I can survive. I even went to a department store and bought a bat to beat my bed so that I could release my rage. I had to force myself to drink fluids.
I was so fucking angry with my abusers. I thought to myself how dare they do the things they did. The pain was so great at times I wanted to die. I even thought a few times I would go down in my basement and hang myself. I even bought the rope. At the time living and dying became an option. But then I decided that I had lived through Schizophrenia so surviving I could do. My life had been destroyed so far but I wasnt going to let anybody take anything away from me any longer. My will to survive became stronger, no matter how tough the going was going to get I was going to beat Schizophrenia. The process of recovery was in full swing.
When the symptoms started to lose theyre power and disappear I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror for the first time directly at myself, I saw me. I wasnt all the terrible things that people had been saying about me for years. I was someone, I was beautiful and I was a survivor. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I knew I was going to be okay. It was just was going to take time. I let go of all the people I knew because they were very unhealthy relationships to start with. To completely recover there had to be major changes in my life.
As I walked out my front door and sat on my porch, I think for the first time I could truly hear the sound of birds and as I looked up into the sky I knew instantly that I was free of this horrible illness that controlled a great number of years of my life. The voices were gone. Reality was knocking at my door and I welcomed it in. I cried tears of the many losses and painful memories. I cried real tears of joy, not the tears I cried to manipulate others. Even though it was a very painful process there were times I wanted to just shut down and not feel but it was too late I had already opened up a way into my pain and once my eyes were open there was no way of stopping the process. I was a complete basket case. During my recovery I didnt laugh that much, there was a deep void within myself because the pain was being released and there was nothing to fill the emptiness. As my sickness disappeared I felt as if I had never truly lived, I never felt anything, Schizophrenia protected me of that, it rescued me of never confronting my inner pain. Schizophrenia in many ways has saved my life. The illness was my best friend. Without Schizophrenia I believe I would of died. I was emotionally dead but the healthy core of my existence was still struggling to survive. Getting honest with myself was one of the biggest challenges I had to face.
Facing the realisation that people were willing to allow me to self destruct was hard to stomach. Because of others fears I could of very well died. Decisions that I was not able to make were made for me and it just doesnt seem like it was in my best interest. All those times being left sleeping on the streets, lost in a world of my own, terrified of people trying to kill me. All those closed doors in my face, all those times I was turned away from receiving therapy. It makes me think, what kind of society are we living in where people are denied the proper help. I can remember not eating for days, except for the little help I received staying at hostels. You tell me what I did to deserve this kind of treatment. For these kinds of things to be happening today it really makes me think wonder what is going on in the mental health system. If it is the lack of funds or lack of knowledge make the changes. Nobody deserves to suffer.
For the next three years I read a lot of books on how to take care of myself. I learnt about boundaries, feelings, expressing myself, and asking important questions such as what I want to do with my life. After coming out of my schizophrenic world, I did attempt to go to therapy to talk about my experiences but after having an interview with one of the therapists she turned me down flatly because she was did not know how to help me. All I wanted to do was talk about my recovery. When I asked where I could go for support she told me she didnt know. She told me to come back after I had worked everything out and she would see what she could do for me. I told her there was no where to go and she said there are a lot of people like you so dont feel like it is personal.
I am a mother of two children who I love deeply. The risk of my children developing Schizophrenia I believe wont happen because a deep bond of trust and love is in place. I know now, how it is so important as human beings to express ourselves to avoid any mental disorders. And yes, my children are healthy in case you are wondering. I can still get strange once in while but it is a good strange. All the things I didnt get to experience before might make me appear as being a child but why not, it is a part of me that I like the most. I am alive and well. I look forward to waking up everyday, doing the simple things like showering, applying make-up, organising the day and I love cooking. Theres just so much I like to do, it has been like discovering life for the first time. Over the years each new experience has brought me a great amount of pleasure. I actually taste food now, not like before when it seemed like all my senses were dead. Most of the day I write, putting on paper what is most important. My goal is to publish a book about Schizophrenia. By publishing my story I think I can help create change and supply hope for anyone who doesnt believe people can recover. This is just something I need to do for myself and others.
I would like to close this article by saying thank you for listening to what I have said and remember yes, there are people who do recover. With the help and support of you, you can make a difference in someones life for the better.