Schizophrenia takes a lot from people’s lives, but it’s hard to know when it’s there.
I’ve known my friend J for a good 10 years now. He always struck me as odd, having moments of absence and sometimes going from a very serious topic to something hilariously unrelated. Recently, he confessed to me that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia a few years ago, which is apparently much more common than we think.
I decided to take this opportunity to ask him how he feels in general about his condition and what effects it has on his daily life.
Q : Your diagnosis was a while ago now…
A : Yes, it was about 5 years ago.
Q : How do you feel about this video of a daily life with schizophrenia?
A : I honestly thought it was pretty exaggerated. It focuses too much on what « the voices » are, and it’s making the guy sound like he’s a f*ing psychopath. *laughs* Honestly though, I can’t think of a better way to make people understand what it’s like, so props for that.
Q : Did the schizophrenia diagnosis a big change in your life?
A : Not really. I knew something was wrong, but knowing what it was didn’t really help to make it better. Probably because I refuse to take any treatment.
Q : Why do you refuse to take any treatment?
A : *pauses* I once took some antidepressants for a few months… I took meds when I was incorrectly diagnosed with chronic depression. It ruined my life for a while. I was drowsy, couldn’t eat, I would vomit often…. This isn’t a way to live.
Q : Can you define your average day when you’re at your worst?
A : I usually sleep in late. I have bad insomnia and it’s hard for me to go to bed early. I’ll listen to music pretty much all day so I stop focusing on my thoughts. When I go to class, I often panic a bit, and I have to check several times that « everything is okay » and I can go.
In public transportation, I get really anxious and I try to avoid contact as much as I can. When I’m in class, it’s hard to focus on listening to the teachers and getting work done. I come back home as quickly as I can when it’s finished and I go back to listening to music. Then, I play music or write for a while, as well as playing video games, then go to bed late.
Q : And are these your ways of escaping?
A : Videogames don’t really help, honestly. They’re just a nice waste of time to me. But playing music and writing does help, yes. It allows me to let my emotions out for a bit.
Q : How would you define yourself now?
A : *laughs* I, uh… I’m two persons in one mind. Not two minds in one person. Know what I mean?
Q : Not really. Can you explain?
A : I hate saying that, but this is a bit like having two personalities, except different. It’s more complicated though, it would be easy to understand if I was just saying « oh I hear voices telling me to kill people » but it’s not just A voice. It’s MY voice, telling me to do things I don’t want to do.
My entire day and interactions are plagued with this “voice” telling me not to care about anything. Or to do things I don’t want to do. It never really stops.
Q : And what kind of things does it tell you?
A : Everything that I don’t want to do, really. Socially unacceptable and forbidden things. It often has to do with violent tendencies. Like, sometimes, I clearly hear my voice in my head telling me to hurt someone. And it also often has to do with sexuality. It’s basically telling me to do every thing that I don’t want to do, and somehow it makes me convince myself that I want to do these things.
It also makes me really paranoid. I keep thinking bad things will happen to me, or that people are trying to trick me.
Q : Have you ever acted upon these things you hear?
A : No. Just thinking about it makes me feel sick. The hardest part is not hearing the voice. It’s having to find a way to cope with it.
Q : How do you cope with it?
A : First of all,I think about very unrelated things. It makes me forget a lot because sometimes I can’t concentrate on what people are saying to me. I have to suppress the voice and so I think about something else, and that makes me unable to pay attention. People think I’m ditzy and that I don’t care, but I just have to bear the constant pain of fighting with myself.
Sorry, I forgot the question. *laughs*
Q : I was trying to know how you fight back the voice exactly.
A : Ah, yes… I focus on things like objects or pieces of furniture. I get completely lost in looking at things. Also, I count the number of letters in a sentence and I try to rearrange it so that I like the number better. I get obsessed with unimportant things to think about something else.
Q : What effects does it have on your daily life?
A : I forget things. A lot. Important things, like taking care of my loved ones. I forget my mother’s birthday every year, for example. I gave up on trying to note down what I have to do because I even forget about the notes that I take.
Depression is also frequent. I become overwhelmed with how I feel and what I hear, and it convinces me that I don’t want to live anymore. Even though I want to… When good things happen to me, all I can hear are things like « You don’t deserve it » or « stop trying, it doesn’t matter ». And as such, I can’t really enjoy these things.
Also, I seem to be unable to relate to people. I don’t care about what people say to me. It doesn’t matter to me when someone I like is unhappy. I try to be polite, but I genuinely don’t care.
Q : Do you think a lot of people have this condition?
A : Ehhh… It’s hard to say. I think many people are misdiagnosed with depression too. And as such, they go through their entire life thinking «I’m depressed ». But as it turns out, it’s not at all what’s wrong with them.
Q : What are you hoping for now?
A : I know it’s never going to go away. I just hope that I can learn to stop listening for a little and start to enjoy things. I don’t want to become a bitter old man who doesn’t enjoy anything, you know?
Q : Yeah, I understand. Is there anything you’d like people to know about when it comes to your condition ?
A : It’s not as scary as it sounds, really. People think we have split personalities and that we can snap and go like « I’M GOING TO MURDER YOU NOW ». Even if we – even if I think about it, doesn’t mean I’m gonna do it.
Q : You’re not helping your cause, you know…
A : *laughs* Honestly, it’s just hard for us. I don’t know how people feel about it. I must admit I’ve never asked « normal » people. Even my mother isn’t aware about this.
Q : Why don’t you tell anyone?
A : I’d rather have people think that I’m weird than a freak, really.
Although not too many things were said, the conversation spanned over 30 minutes. It was hard getting him to explain how he feels. This was his first time talking about it to someone other than a psychologist. I simply hope that this will help him and other people like him to understand they can be accepted.