Schizophrenia for me, is characterized by hallucinations (specifically the voices and visions of people or ghosts), thoughts of people gossiping about me, following me, or trying to poison me, and false beliefs or delusions...
As I reviewed old college journal entries it saddened me how prevalent my diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia was. Certain phrases gave indication that Schizophrenia was dominate and slowly getting worse. I relied on God to relieve my stressful situations. Now, I will share with you some thoughts I had that I wrote about in my college journal while I was a sophomore and/or junior.
Stress played an intricate role in my symptoms that surfaced. On February 26, 2006, I wrote: "...Although I have been under a lot of stress due to financial, car, and professor conflicts, everything is okay...." Most of the time I tried to stay positive. However, I was obsessed with the idea that someone or some group of college students were gossiping about me. On March 11, 2006, I wrote: "...I have the feeling that people are gossiping about me..."
Eventually, I did not trust anybody including my closest friends, and I began to isolate myself. These thoughts and actions are portrayed in the following journal entries: (March 12, 2006) "...I am at peace with myself I do not feel bad about deteriorating relationships at school..." I went on further to write on March 23, 2006: "... I am blessed because I know I cannot trust any of my closest friends with my secrets..." As you can imagine, not being able to share information with other people, or even your best friend, can make a person feel trapped... I felt trapped, and I did not understand why.
The belief that others were talking about me behind my back got worse to include a group of individuals outside of my initial circle of support. On March 31, 2006, I wrote: "...I think I am certain of who the main gossipers are- [I listed several names]..."
Back then, I remember whenever I was under a lot of stress, (which was a lot), I would take a walk around campus (I lived on the college campus), no matter what time of night. For instance, I took a lot of late night walks just before and during finals week. During these walks, I sometimes heard voices or people laughing (at me). I rationalized the voices by believing that I had extremely good hearing, and I assumed my friends were laughing at me in secret, which made me withdraw from them and eventually everyone else.
In my mind, the stress got so bad that I needed to take a break from school. A year after the listed journal entries, I withdrew from all college courses during my junior year in March 2007. I felt like I lost my drive, focus, and motivation to complete assignments, and to even go class.
I must emphasize that during the time I journaled, I did not know I was living with a mental illness. Also, even though my faith seemed to help me get through some difficult times, my mental illness was not prayed away, and I have learned that it cannot be willed away, or slept away. (I am not by any means suggesting that divine intervention or miracles are not possible). How to treat a person's mental illness should be discussed with a mental health professional.
Now, I no longer feel trapped by my Schizophrenia. I have friends and relatives who I can trust. As I do research on the illness and remember situations from my past, or read old journal entries, I am able to distinguish reality from delusions... I am still putting together the pieces, which is refreshing to me- to know the difference. More important, I am back in college!
To learn more about Schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).