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Showing posts from January, 2009

Creating a Support System

Support is crucial to recovery from any mental illness. Everybody needs some sort of support. For those of you who do not have family support I have come up with some suggestions to build your own family of support. I know that what I am about to share with you may sound easy, but it is not, therefore I commend for making an effort in getting support.

You can join a Clubhouse. A Clubhouse is a place where you can build relationships with other people who are affected by mental illness. You can also learn how to cope with symptoms, get back into school, find a job, and find quality housing options. To get an idea of what a Clubhouse is about here is a list of some Clubhouses to visit:

1) Fountain House
2) International Center for Clubhouse Development
3) Spring City Corner Clubhouse
4) Contra Costa Clubhouses, Inc.
5) Clubhouse of Lehigh County

Join an organization such as National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that caters to mental illnesses. In addition to NAMI, you can join Mental Heal…

Medication For Schizophrenia

I am not a doctor but I know that medication is essential in treating schizophrenia, along with therapy and support. Before I go into this subject of medication, I strongly recommend that you talk to a psychiatrist about any treatment for schizophrenia, you may try a few different antpsychotic drugs, like I did, until you find the right one.

This illness is like diabetes and needs continuous treatment, there is no cure. The medication relieves some of the positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms, however, some people can still experience symptoms while on medication.

To gain insight into some of the symptoms of schizophrenia refer to an older post called "Types of Symptoms," which can be found in September 2008. With treatment a person with schizophrenia is (
Less likely to have frequent or lengthy hospitalizationsLess likely to require intensive support at homeLess likely to abuse alcohol or drugsLess lik…

The Overcoming Schizophrenia Blog

The purpose of this blog is to educate, to fight stereotypes and stigma... Three out of 100 people experience psychosis. To learn what psychosis is go the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (SSNS) blog and read the January 29th post, "Facing Psychosis Video."

My blog has a growing community, which I am very excited about. I hope we can support each other by sharing experiences and asking questions. I appreciate all followers and readers, and hope you are learning something new and interesting about schizophrenia.

Also, I started a new group, OvercomingSchizophrenia Blog, so I hope you will stop by and consider joining.

I encourage questions, suggestions, and feedback related to schizophrenia. I appreciate you for taking an interest in this mental illness, and hope you take notice to the new resources and information links provided on the bottom right.

Please don't hesitate to contact me by email about any concerns or anything at all at

Hallucination Question

Zain asked this question: "I've heard that people with schizophrenia may hallucinate as to something or someone (not real) attacking them. Is it possible for this imaginary thing to actually hurt them physically when they perceive it to hit them?"

Answer: In general, hallucinations can come in many forms; visual, audible, smell, taste, and feeling... However, in an effort to protect oneself, the person with schizophrenia may personally cause harm to themself. For example, if a person is on the third floor of a building and is in a room with a bunch of snakes (not real) they will do everything in their power to not get bit. That includes throwing objects, cutting things, burning things, or even jumping out of the window.

Another example is a person on the street sees something (not real) coming at them. As a result they jump into the street into oncoming traffic and is hurt by a car, not the thing they were running from.

In addition to that, this is when bystanders could p…

Understanding Oneself (click here to go to the site with the picture)

This describes schizophrenia...My psychotic break led to my institutionalization. At first, when I was institutionalized I did not understand what was going on. I didn't do the things I like to do because I didn't feel motivated or because of fear.

For example, I love to write I keep a journal, however, while I was away I was scared to write because somebody, anybody, could read my diary, I was paranoid. Also, I was very emotional. My delusions made me believe a member of family hurt my mother and her siblings in their childhood. I was confused and didn't know why or where these peculiar thoughts came from.

I was also hearing voices, it made keeping conversaton with people very difficult. The voices made do strange things. For example, I would get up in the middle of the night and flush all the toilets repeatedly, until a bunkmate would tell me to go back to sleep.

Before I was institutionalized I had trouble concentrating on homework and work assignments. It would take me a…

Schizophrenia: Lack of Support

"People with schizophrenia are more likely to experience discrimination by those closest to them than by employers or officials, a global survey suggests...Some 47% of those asked reported discrimination when it came to making and keeping friends, while 43% found similar problems with family." (Click on the title of this post to read the article in its entirety). I found the article on the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (SSNS) blog)

This irritates me on so many levels, because the person with schizophrenia had no choice but to develop the illness as a result of genetics and environmental factors. The person living with schizophrenia must succumb to the illness's terrors. If they had a choice they wouldn't experience the harsh symptoms of schizophrenia such as delusions and hallucinations. Also, family members should not deny other members of the family because everyone needs support. It's already bad enough that some people outside the family discriminate an…

Do You Feel Challenged?

Now that you have schizophrenia do you feel challenged? My step-father asked me this earlier today.

The issue with having schizophrenia is that you are constantly concerned with the fear of having a relapse and being sent back to the hospital. Or having recurring symptoms that make it hard for you to function, despite medication compliance.

Schizophrenia is a challenge, however, I turn it into motivation. Schizophrenia makes me take things more slowly compared to past activities and/or events, however, I still believe I can fulfill goals. I do not limit myself or stigmatize myself because of the illness. However, I do acknowledge I have an illness and find ways to cope with it. For example, people with schizophrenia frequently display flat emotion. Accordingly, I try to be more vocal about my feelings.

I believe everyone has an issue or challenge whether it be an addiction, a medical ailment, a mental disorder, a personality disorder, or problems with relationships and family, and so on;…

Speech on Schizophrenia and Stigma (click here to go to this speech)

March 13, 2006

By Pamela Spiro Wagner

I could be your daughter or your son, your sister or brother, your mother or father, your friend or your neighbor. I suffer from schizophrenia.

For decades, I’ve lived, along with almost three million other people with schizophrenia, in a desolate, dark, little room with a large padlock on the door.

The room is stigma, the darkness is fear and the lock is ignorance.

I want to speak to you today, having had schizophrenia for decades, to break down the walls of fear and suspicion, unburden you of the myths and mysteries that lead to stigma and get you open that door. I’d like to tell you some reasons why medication compliance is such a difficult issue in schizophrenia and a little about how I began to recover.

Medication. What a struggle! I was never going to take medication. Medication meant I was sick. I hated the label, I hated the very idea of a label. But I hated the side effects most. Never mind what medication did FOR me, I hated what it did TO m…

My Response to Out of Darkness

I was very satisfied with the movie, to me it was a realistic experience. However, we must remember that the movie took place 15 years ago, and medications and other treatments have tremendously improved.

Diana Ross does an excellent job portraying Pauline Cooper, a 42 year old woman with schizophrenia. "It's like she has a terminal illness, but she never dies," Pauline's mother said. The movie shows the emotional burden on the family. Pauline endured 43 hospitalizations because she didn't like taking her medicine because of the side effects (tardive dyskinesia). Tardive dyskinesia makes a person have irregular movements of the tongue, hands, feet, or lips. I didn't like taking my medication as well, because it gave me akathisia. Akathisia is constant movement. I couldn't sleep, I had to continuously stay in motion. Fortunately, I was able to change medications and try a newer drug called Abilify that does not have the same side effects.

"I'm not…

Out of Darkness T.V. Program featuring Diana Ross

"My brain has been stolen...My head is blowing apart!" Diana Ross, producer and star actress in the television program Out of the Darkness (1994), portrays Pauline Cooper, a 42 year old woman suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Cooper, a former med student, loses 20 years of her life battling schizophrenia. She makes life unbearable for her mother, sister, and daughter when she is not institutionalized. However, after she is released from a psychiatric ward she attempts to get her life back together. There is a new drug for schizophrenia that Cooper tries and its seems to put her on the correct path to recovery.

THIS IS A MUST SEE: To view this movie go to TV ONE at 8pm EST, tonight. Click on the title of this post for a sneak peek of the movie (wait a few moments for the film to play).

Free Spirited Woman Dancing

I strive to lighten up the mood. What is your response to this picture?

Schizophrenia: Delusions

Delusion: a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact ( defines a delusion as a false belief or misinterpretation of events and their significance. 50 Signs of Mental Illness defines a delusion as unchanging beliefs that are held on inadequate grounds. Delusions are misinterpretations of events, words, and body language that are exaggerated, and cannot be meant in any other way. Don't take that word lightly, because it is major, serious, intense, and deep.

There are several types of delusions, some are: 1) persecutory, 2) grandiose, 3) erotomanic, 4) jealousy, 5) identity, 6) somatic, and 7) nihilistic. Here, we are going to discuss persecutory, grandiose, and identity, because I personally experienced these three types of delusions.

Persecutory delusions is the most common form of a delusion. I thought that a relative was trying to harm me; however, I did not have any evidence to confirm this belief. I thought…

I Am Not Fragile

There are times when I do tell people, for whatever reason, that I have schizophrenia. Their first response is to ask if I need accommodation...can I handle this situation too stressful for me. Relatives do this out of love and because they do not understand the illness. They do not understand that the medicine helps me think more clearly and behave like my old self, before the onset of schizophrenia. People sometimes ask if our conversation is irritating me or if it triggers symptoms. Some people think I am sensitive or fragile to life's demands...

Just because someone has an illness does not mean they have to feel like they can't walk this way, talk this way, do it that way, or keep distance!!

I am no more fragile than the next person! I have emotions, hardships, and setbacks like everyone else. I make mistakes too. In fact, I like challenges, and take criticism well and use it to improve who I am.

Yes, I do get stressed like everyone else, yes, I do get my feelings hur…

Early Warning Signs of Schizophrenia

To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, symptoms must last a minimum of six months. Specific symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations for one month. These warning signs can be considered normal responses to certain situations, however, the intensity of it is what distinguishes it from normal behavior to various mental illnesses. My mother knew something was wrong with me from observing my many changes, but she didn't know what. The symptoms gradually got worse as time passed. I didn't know what was wrong with me, I felt like I was losing myself, and I guess I was. The following behaviors were my early warning signs of schizophrenia, (there were much more symptoms as they got worse):

Intense Change of Mood
Severe anxiety- could not handle being around groups of people
Low motivation- lacked drive to go to school, whereas I was extremely involved earlier
Suspiciousness- suspicious of close friends, family, everyone!
Sleep disturbances- insomnia/excessive sleeping
Change of BehaviorIn…

Schizophrenia and Nicotine

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Annually 440,000 Americans die from tobacco-related illness. Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Smoking is frowned upon because it is addictive and can lead to cancer, heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis; and many other health issues.

People living with schizophrenia smoke three times more than the general population, (75 to 90 percent vs. 25 to 30 percent). Higher rates of smoking is also prevalent among people with bipolar disorder and depression compared to people without brain disorders. People with schizophrenia who smoke often need higher doses of medication. Furthermore, psychotic symptoms worsen when a person either stops smoking or initiates smoking; it is recommended that doctors monitor patients who begin smoking or who stop smoking.
Although nicotine is addictive it does have some benefits...In the past people smoked to alleviate stiffness and muscle movements caused by older antipsychotic d…

Schizophrenia: Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis describes a patient who has both a mental illness and an addiction to either alcohol or drugs. Mental illnesses include: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Schizophrenia is a mental illness characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. It affects one percent of the American population. Here are some facts you should know about Dual Diagnosis and schizophrenia...

About 50 percent of people living with a mental illness have a substance abuse problem. In fact, a 1994 study found that 47 percent of people diagnosed with schizophrenia have Dual Diagnosis. The Royal College of Psychiatry found that people with schizophrenia are more likely to abuse alcohol. Another study in 2003 discovered that people with schizophrenia are six times more likely to abuse drugs. The most common drug of choice (in the order of popularity) is alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills. The substance abuse is higher among males, ages 18 to 44. Among th…

Recovery: What Helped Me to Recover from Schizophrenia

A woman with a 16 year old son who was diagnosed with schizophrenia once asked me how did I recover...

At one point in my life I was lifeless...I was not moving, speaking, eating, or showering. I stayed in my room and let the hours pass with no particular thing to do. I had no interest in life itself. I did not watch television, write in my journal, or go outside to feel the sun on my skin; or converse with other people. This person was not Ashley, schizophrenia snatched her away. This was a major set back for me because I used be very involved in sports, theater productions, and other extracurricular activities...So how did I get better?...

My family had the judge mandate medication compliance for my mental illness. The psychiatric ward where I was staying forced medication on me, and offered many groups where we interacted with other people through games, reading, and creating art work. This sort of therapy took months before there was any sign of hope to my recovery. The next stage i…

Why I Take My Medicine

Before things got really bad I got into arguments with family and friends. The arguments started from something very small, however, blew up into something big. My emotions were up and down, which led my opponent's emotions to fluctuate. I yelled at my aunt for taking my cell phone, which I later found underneath my bed. This same aunt gave me a job, however, I quit because "we were not getting along." I went off on my sister and accused her of not supporting me, when in fact she is my number one fan. I denied visits from my mother and family, while I was in jail because the voices told me they were not my friends. I lost my best friend because she told an associate I would be switching schools, which I was considering, I accused her of gossiping; I was petty. Schizophrenia can make you irritable and can ruin good relationships.

In school I thought students and professors were gossiping about me. At one point I even thought they were reading my personal emails...While wal…

Overcoming Schizophrenia Blog's New Look

I changed the layout for this blog, because it needed something different; before it was all black. How do you like the new style? Be honest, and offer suggestions.

I don't want/I will not go back to the old style because it seemed a little gloomy, and that is not the image I want to promote for this blog. To me this blog is a place to learn about interesting facts about schizophrenia. It is also a place to network with family members, friends, and persons with a mental illness, or anyone interested in learning more about the illness.

Family Secrets

There is a major difference between gossiping about someone and discussing conditions and/or events within the family. Some people do not want to talk about mental illness because they do not understand it and do not think it is relevant, they are in denial, or they are embarrassed by it. The fact is schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that can have detrimental consequences if untreated. Furthermore, not discussing family history can be life threatening; ten percent of the people living schizophrenia will commit suicide. Schizophrenia can also lead a person to isolate themselves from people, not speak, eat, or not even take care of personal hygiene.

Some illnesses are hereditary, or places family members at greater risk if there is some background, schizophrenia is one of these illnesses. Being aware means you are a step ahead, or proactive, and can look for signs. Shhhhhh or pretend like it does not exist? I say "Ouch," to that! Symptoms are not like ooooooh or psssst…

Medicaid...The Long Wait

I applied for Medicaid over a month ago and I am still waiting for a reply. I wish they would hurry up an either deny me or approve me, so that I can move onto Plan B. Plan B is turn in my denial letter to the clinic and let them pay for my medicine or pay a portion of the costs.

When I spoke to a Medicaid representative they told me I would be approved or denied between 45 and 60 days. That is a long time! What if my medicine runs out, now I taking samples from the clinic, but after next week I will not have any left. I cannot afford to be without the medication, I know that if I stop taking it the symptoms will return and I will hear voices, have trouble concentrating, and get paranoid.

I hope I do not have to come out of pocket for this medicine, but it seems like that is what is about to happen. My SSI check does not give me the leisure to have extra money to pay for medicine.

Closer to Recovery Part II

I received a marketing internship with a nonprofit organization that helps children medically on an international level. My assignment today was to create a flyer for an upcoming event. The flyer is a registration form for the event. I am very excited about my new job and projects. I will work three days a week, and no more than 25 hours, so that it is not overwhelming. Some of my projects include updating the website, writing press releases, and data entry for new and existing sponsors/donors. This is a great opportunity to build my portfolio and to make lasting professional relationships. Doing this internship shows tremendous recovery, because I have not worked since my psychotic break. Now I am back doing the things I used to do before I got sick, and it feels great!

Schizophrenia and Voices: The Ugly Side

Schizophrenia is a complex mental illness that alters a person's judgment and emotions. It affects one percent of the American population. For males it usually begins around age 15, and for females age 25. However, I showed symptoms at age 20 or under, and I am a female.

I had jumbled thoughts, and heard loud voices demanding me to say and to do things. None of what the voices said made any sense. In fact, there were multiple voices. The voices were discouraging, and mean, sometimes they laughed at me. The illness made me intense and hard to follow in conversations. Schizophrenia makes you an ugly person...unless you handle it. The following events happened while I was in jail...

"Get up, flush the toilets!" A voice commanded. I woke up one night because I couldn't sleep, the voices were bothering me. To quiet the voices I started flushing all of the toilets. Even though I woke up my fellow inmates, I continued flushing the toilets. An inmate 'Sh" me and grabb…

Schizophrenia: Being Aware...

"Do you see shadows or catch glimpses of people following you?"..."Have you had head trauma?"..."Do you sometimes have jumbled or confused thoughts?"...Is it hard for you to have a conversation?"..."Is it hard for you to pay attention for long periods of time?"..."Do some colors bother you?"..."Have people told you that you don't show emotion in your facial expression or voice?..."Were you sexually abused as a child?"..."Will you read this paragraph for me, and answer these questions?"

I was oblivious to the fact these questions would lead the doctors to my final diagnosis. After a couple of weeks in the hospital, and several tests, later the doctor sat me down and told me that I have schizophrenia. He said this explains the paranoia and other symptoms I had been experiencing. Awareness is one of the first steps to overcoming a mental illness. Most of the time awareness of a mental illness is initiated …

WHO AM I . . . .

Now that I am a person living with schizophrenia, who am I?

Prior to my diagnoses of schizophrenia I was a very intense person. I was very serious, uptight, and too private. I was also very religious, in fact, too religious to be around most people. I preferred one-on-one settings. Moreover, I was unapproachable. I was suspicious of even my closest friends. For example, when friends asked me questions such as how I was acquainted with another friend, I got suspicious of their intentions. I ran people away! Even something simple like when a friend told an associate I was planning to transfer to another school, which I was, I just knew this friend was gossiping about me, and became very defensive, backed completely off! At that point, it was mutual. I was petty, to say the least. I would get upset at little bitty things. The illness made me withdraw from a lot of social settings I would have otherwise been interested in. I did not withdraw completely though, I still had a life, but pref…