As you can imagine, it is very offensive when I hear someone refer to another individual living with a mental illness as crazy because I have a diagnosis and I do not view myself as such, nor do I view other people with mental health as crazy. I wish I can get through to other people that think that way and explain that mental health has many faces. Mental illness can affect all sorts of people, no matter what intellectual background, socioeconomic status, age, gender, race, etc. Schizophrenia is much more complicated than hearing the voices.
For me, schizophrenia made me think irrationally, do bizarre things, and to have unnecessary stress. I remember the episodes I had before I was diagnosed with schizophrenia...
At one point I thought my peers and professors were against me. However, that belief carried over to everyone conspiring against me, which was very uncomfortable because it seemed like I can feel people gossiping about me, and that I can read their minds and they could read my mind too.
I would have anxiety attacks around certain people because I felt they were evil. I thought I had the gift of discernment where I can decipher evil spirits and good spirits within people and that I was a prophet. Thinking about it now, it was all very weird, but not to me at the time. I tried to rationalize these beliefs and whenever someone doubted me, like for instance, that the professors were against me I would stop telling them information and this led to isolation.
Eventually I felt like I had a special relationship with God and that only I could understand Him. I believed that the dates on the back of milk cartoons were the real date and whatever people said the date was, was incorrect. I felt like I could not trust anyone and that everyone was out to get me, I was very suspicious.
The voices were a distraction to me. I would be holding a good conversation with someone and then one of the voices would intervene and talk about something that did not make sense or talk about the person to whom I was talking to. And when I would stop to hear what the voices were saying the voices would sometimes stop then start again after I resumed my conversation, it was irritating.
My episode with schizophrenia led me to be arrested and placed into jail and into the State Hospital. My thinking was so off I thought the sitting truck with the car keys in them was a blessing from God and indicator to take the truck. And when I got into the truck some hip-hop song was playing. I did not like the song and still do not to this day because of my interpretation of the song. I thought the song had a deeper meaning as if the devil was trying to get me to commit suicide, but I did not want to die! I tried to ignore the song and concentrate on driving the truck. I eventually crashed the truck head-on into a government building while trying to escape the police. While in custody I thought to myself the police will harm me. I even thought I was Jesus Christ for a moment, that was weird. Later, I discovered that the truck belonged to the military which made my incident a felony.
Schizophrenia is much more than the voices. It encompasses paranoia, delusions, and other things that make an individual feel stress. I am not saying that everyone with the disorder will have a run-in with police, that is not true, it is what happened to me.
I hope that if you hear someone refer to a person with mental health as crazy or something you will investigate and educate them because there are so many misconceptions about schizophrenia and mental illness.
To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc. (EMM), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).