Issue 7

Personal View of Schizophrenia

I would like to write about my own experience of schizophrenia as a patient. I have suffered from schizophrenia for a number of years and it has been a frightening experience. I have made many mistakes during this period but I have tried to learn from them. I have also found it very difficult to discuss the illness with other people such as my psychiatrist, psychologist, cpn, and wife and they with me. So, I am attempting to write about my experiences when I go high (manic) and which I hope may be useful to other people.

My first sign of schizophrenia is the continuous churning around of ideas in my mind (racing thoughts) leading to a lack of sleep. I pace up and down deep in thought. My thoughts get more and more expansive and I start to feel that I can rule the world and I talk down to people - I become arrogant.

Sleeping is very important - when I am manic I do not sleep. If I do fall asleep I see how I feel when I wake up - am I sluggish and want to lie in bed (I am probably not suffering from mania and just had a restless night) or do I awake very quickly and continue to churn around my thoughts, that is, the mania continues.

Because I feel that my thoughts are important and am afraid of losing them, one trick that I have learnt to do is to write my thoughts down on a piece of paper however crazy they may be. Having written down my thoughts I become calm because I know that I can go back to them later and this relaxes me and reduces the manic thought. However, I have found that I rarely do go back to my notes.

To give myself the best chance of sleeping, if needed, I make sure that I write things down a few hours before I go to bed. I make sure that I take my medication (this also slows down my thoughts) and when I feel drowsy I go to bed with a clear, relaxed mind. I feel that it is important to dream because this also acts to relax my thoughts.
When manic, my days are like living a dream and people can appear to be my enemy who are going to do bad things to me. I have religious thoughts. Some of the journeys that I am taking will eventually end in my death, and surprisingly I am not afraid of this. Its as if I have triggered my journey to death of old age too early. This may be why suicide (self harm) rates are high in the mentally ill. Making notes can highlight problems and show the need to seek help. I must face up to what appears to be danger because I have found out that this is just my own thought and not of anyone else.

My carers and people whom I meet are very important because they can either fuel or reduce my manic thoughts. My carers need to address what I am saying in a sensible way and not patronise or dismiss what I am saying - my thoughts may seem confused but that is why I am trying to understand them. Having someone to talk to away from professional help such as psychiatrists and hospitalisation is important because it reduces stress. I have also learnt to reflect back to see if I am having manic interactions with people and myself. One important mistake I have made is to dismiss the illness and the need for professional help - this can have fatal consequences, so I try to be brutally honest when assessing the mania.

I hope that my experience is useful and may help others trying to come to terms with schizophrenia.