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Living with Schizophrenia (1 Viewer)

E

Edgewise

The worst part of living with schizophrenia is divvying up the world between reality and the world which exists solely in your mind. Did the person next to me just ask a question, or was it a figment of my immensely overactive imagination? Should I give credence to that nagging suspicion that the person I just talked to hates me, or is the notion a delusion, a paranoid brain tic rippling through my conscious thought process?

Such circumstances compel a person to change their previous habit and lifestyles to accommodate the new world they were thrust into, kicking and screaming. Unfortunately for people who are afflicted with this plague of the mind, it is not just mundane, everyday life which is subject to change, but the very being itself. Schizophrenia is nothing short of a life changing experience, as traumatic as any physically tangible abuse which the world can throw at a person. Anyone who comes out of the tunnel alive (I.E. the course of psychosis, medication, hospitalization, and perhaps even suicide attempts) comes out a stronger person mentally. But they come out a different person than they were before. Being ridiculed, torn down, worn down, kept awake for hours on end by ceaseless berating voices makes life a battle. Just as veterans of battle are often subject to post-traumatic stress disorder, so anyone who fights mental wars will be scarred.

My previous point may take some explaining, for those uninitiated to the world of, or unfamiliar with, schizophrenia. Say one is under the very real (albeit irrational) impression that the mafia, CIA, DHS, INS, or FBI is coming after them to do some horrible things to them. To further the example, lets say this person believes that just outside of their window, a man with a chainsaw already revved up to go is just waiting for the chance to rip his way inside his or her home. Then let’s say this person opens the door, waiting for the man with the chainsaw to appear and chop them to shreds. Is that experience any less real than an actual situation where a man with a chainsaw is going to kill said person? I would argue, no it isn’t. Thus, their mental anguish is translated into an actual physical experience of fear, triggering the fight or flight response. Physiologically, the schizophrenics experience is as real as any tangible experience.


Once achieves a measure of sanity, they must face the regular woes and difficulties of everyday life. And since their experience has transformed them mentally, they must realign themselves with society, and relearn things they may have forgotten during their period of psychosis. This is where the real problems begin. Paranoia, in my opinion, can be subdued, but never tamed wholly. Like the Id, it is kept bottled up in the subconscious before it bubbles up, or, in the case of the schizophrenic, trickles, bit by bit into the conscious mind. Thus the schizophrenic must deal with filtering their world between the phantoms of delusional paranoia and what is actually occurring, much like the process of the super-ego. This process creates tension and stress, which can cause a relapse of full blown psychosis.

 

thedreamweaver

Senior Member
Interesting.

I liked the argument of 'Physiologically, the schizophrenics experience is as real as any tangible experience.'

Thought-provoking. Out of interest, have you been/are you schizophrenic?
 

Shawn

WF Veterans
It seems to me that you stick to schizophrenia as hallucinations. What about schizophrenia of the psyche, without an physiological response?

I've had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a schizophrenic uncle who had several other problems coupled with it, including mental retardation. You're right... it's a journey.
 
E

Edgewise

thedreamweaver, yes I am schizophrenic, although I have achieved great strides in my path to recovery. Glad you liked it.

Shawn, in my opinion, the physiological responses to the artificial stimuli which schizophrenia presents to the sufferer are inseperable from the psychological effects of the illness.

As for your uncle, I am sorry for both him and you for having to deal with such an illness. Sometimes I question the existence of god, and why he would allow such a Hell-on-Earth for his creation. I waver between belief and agnosticism due to this quandry.
 

Cipher2

Senior Member
It gives me hope to read that someone can come to realise that they have the illness. Since, I had someone in the family who could not agree to treatment. Even though some things he said indicated that he knew he was ill, he could not make the connection that some of his perceptions were not real before he passed away.

Now it seems I have a housemate who is mildly schizophrenic. My other housemate has no expereince of the disease and took as a personal afront, accusations that were made against him.
 
E

Edgewise

Cipher2, I am sorry to hear about your experiences. The first step towards recovery (as I imagine the first step in AA entails) is admiting there is something wrong. IMHO, the sufferer needs to realize themselves that there is something not quite right. Any external attempts to convince them of this is an effort in futility, and could in fact reinforce their paranoia by confirming their delusions.

What is it that makes you suspicious your housemate has schizophrenia, if I may ask?
 

Cipher2

Senior Member
Yeah I am not going to try to convince anyone. I know what happens with that. I have a house-mate who believes that another house-mate is letting people into the house in order to poison him, and he keeps taking this chinese medicine to counter-act the 'effects'. Since I already have experience with this all I can do is say..ok who have you seen in the house? He can't answer this. There are other symptoms as well.
 
E

Edgewise

Unfortunately, schizophrenia often manifests itself during the college years, a time of high stress and transition. It does sound like your friend is psychotic. I wish I had some advice I could give you, I really do, but I am at a loss for words at the moment.
 

Sock

Senior Member
This is very interesting edgewise, thank you. I know a man who I believe is a paranoid schizophrenic (He has run off into live in the woods a few times because he believes that the apocalypse is coming). That is beside the point I suppose.

The idea that the mind MAKES an even real is interesting and reminds me of "The Doors of Perception", which articulates on the effects of psychedelic drugs; saying that the experience can be so influential to a person because the mind does not know what is real and what is not.
 

Triquediqual

Senior Member
This is a very thought provoking piece that encompasses a lot of their life into several short but deep paragraphs. I thought it was very well written and the content is beautifully articulated in a way that can appeal to the readers mind and give them the examples that they feel.

It sheds light on the problem of schizophrenia and hopefully it will give light to those that lost it.
 

Cipher2

Senior Member
Edgewise said:
Unfortunately, schizophrenia often manifests itself during the college years, a time of high stress and transition. It does sound like your friend is psychotic. I wish I had some advice I could give you, I really do, but I am at a loss for words at the moment.

It's something I have dealt with before so it's not that difficult. It is harder dealing with my other housmates reactions and the feud.
 

FoggyImagination

Senior Member
I worked in youth mental health for a number of years and dealt a little with this illness and many more. You did a great job of explaining the experience in a way that most people can understand and I think this piece was very well written. Your word choice is very effective.

I also liked that you pointed out that the fears experienced are very much real to the individual and result in physiological responses as well. Too many of my fellow staff couldn't make this connection and scolded or punished these adolescents for "faking," "overreacting" or "attention-seeking."

I'd be very interested to read more of your experiences if you'd be so inclined to share. If you do, drop me a pm so I don't overlook it, if you will.

A little nit-picky thing, I know but I think you left out a word that threw me off here.

Once one? achieves a measure of sanity, they must face the regular woes and difficulties of everyday life.
 
E

Edgewise

Sock, you caught on to the most important part of the essay; the blury line between reality and perception.

Tri (sorry, your name is very hard to spell :)), glad you liked it.

Cipher, often, stigma and the reactions of the "normal" people surrounding the schizophrenic is the second most dangerous enemy of the afflicted, other than his or herself of course.

Foggy, unfortunately, one cannot fully describe the experience of the schizophrenic...the closest I can come to doing so is by writing this essay, and directing people to the amazingly apt phrase, "hell on earth". I am writing a poem about schizophrenia, and will post it in the Poetry section of this site. If you wish, I will PM you a copy of it, so it doesn't escape your attention. And as for the error you pointed out, by "one", I meant the "individual".

Thanks for reading, empathizing, and responding to this piece everyone. I truely appreciate it.
 
E

Edgewise

P.S. Sorry, Foggy, but the shit I experienced with this illness is of a far to personal nature to share with anybody, except my immediate relations. I appreciate your interest though.
 

The Backward OX

WF Veterans
Interesting.

I liked the argument of 'Physiologically, the schizophrenics experience is as real as any tangible experience.'

Thought-provoking.

I’d like to make two points.

The first is that one does not need to be schizophrenic in order to feel an imagined experience as tangibly as a real experience.

It is a fundamental tenet of, for example, hypnosis, where the patient is conditioned to believe what she/he hears. Tell the patient on a blisteringly hot summer’s day that they feel extremely cold and, provided the message is delivered in sufficiently credible terms, an observer will see the patient begin to shiver. The patient “feels” cold. You can try this out for yourself, on a hot day, without even needing a hypnotist. Just sit, close your eyes, relax, and I mean really relax, and conjure up in your mind’s eye a vivid and continuing picture of the coldest imaginable scenario. Perhaps sitting naked on an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean, with a blizzard howling around you, and with nothing to see but more icebergs all the way to the horizon. Brrr. I got cold just typing it. See what I mean?

This principle is widely used in sports training, where even the conscious mind can “see” something not yet happening as if it really is happening. You can try this for yourself too. Let’s use shooting hoops as an example. Instead of just shooting hoops, first stand with the ball in your up-stretched hand, and imagine in your mind’s eye a successful throw. Repeat the exercise a few times. In your mind, concentrate on the ball always going in the basket.

Then shoot.

Bingo!

After years of missing flies with the fly-swatter, I decided to put this technique to work, and now I get them every time.

My second point is the use by the OP of the word ‘physiologically’, saying

their mental anguish is translated into an actual physical experience of fear, triggering the fight or flight response. Physiologically, the schizophrenics experience is as real as any tangible experience.

Not only because he used it, but also because it has been picked up on by you, and you may just add it to your vocabulary without being aware that it isn’t the correct word to use in such a context. In the simplest terms, ‘physiologically’ means ‘of the body’. However, what really happens when the chainsaw-wielding Fibby bursts through the door is actually rather complex, and the body only comes in during Act Two. I’m going to be lazy here, and Paste a few words from a site somewhat more knowledgeable than I, to hopefully provide a clear pic of what actually takes place.

“The walnut-sized structure in the forebrain called the amygdala, along with the hypothalamus, controls the first, physical response. When an animal receives a visual stimulus that is recognized as potentially dangerous, the neurons from the eye send a signal directly to the amygdala. The amygdala then stimulates the hypothalamus to produce corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). The release of CRH triggers the pituitary gland's discharge of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which in turn stimulates the adrenal gland to secrete cortisol. Cortisol in the bloodstream causes an increase in glucose production, providing the necessary fuel for the brain and muscles to deal with stress.


Studies of neuronal activity in the brain have suggested that the prefrontal cortex, a cognitive and emotional learning center that helps interpret sensory stimuli, is responsible for the conscious assessment of danger. After passing through the amygdala, sensory information is sent on to the cortex. There, the frightening stimulus is examined in detail to determine whether or not a real threat exists. Based on this information, the amygdala will be signaled either to perpetuate the physical response or to abort it. Because the amygdala is aroused before the cortex can accurately assess the situation, an individual will experience the physical effects of fear even in the case of a false alarm.”


What this all means is that it’s the brain, in the OP’s example, that irrationally experiences the Fibby. In other words, it is a psychological, not physiological, experience.

. . . Just thought I’d clear that up.
 
E

Edgewise

Yes, but the fight or flight response would be just as active, whether or not the "Fibby" with the chainsaw is real or not.
 
E

Edgewise

Oh yeah, and having schizophrenia, being hypnotized, and shooting hoops is hardly comparable.
 

virginia

Senior Member
Edgewise,

my brother is schizophrenic and so is my son's father which means I know a bit about this illness and living with it (my poor son, now 28 and through college, still worries about whether he'll be a victim, it's horrible).

It also means I know what it took for you to write this essay because, as you say, it's very difficult for anyone else to understand and it's frustrating for you when they don't even seem to try. You did a great job and I'm sure it will help others (like my son) who might be on the look-out for (or suspecting) similar symptoms. On-the-other-hand, someone might just feel empathy. Well done.

Virginia

P.S. I don't see either of the two I mention above any more as I have become housebound with MS (my poor son!). I can tell you, though, that the former is happily married to a school teacher with two adult sons of his own (both well!). The latter, sadly, not so good and in and out of hospitals/hostels. A lot seems to depend on which medication they're on and my brother, by all accounts, gets more choice in London compared to the other in Cornwall. I may be wrong and, anyway, that's the UK.

Take care.
 
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