6 Myths About Schizophrenia I Want to See Busted
I have undifferentiated schizophrenia, a mixed bag of symptoms and emotional distress. I’ve been “sick” as long as I can remember. My first memory is of a hallucination. Incidentally, it was the only one of my visual hallucinations I have ever spoken out loud to, that I’m aware of. That’s something I want to talk about, the misconceptions of schizophrenia, and maybe a little bit about how it frustrates the goobers out of me that we are portrayed as Scary Monsters and Super Freaks in the media. Even my favorite TV show used the phrase “cuckoo for cocoa puffs” to describe a suspect with schizophrenia two weeks ago. That really disappointed me.
And I’m a bit of a hypocrite on this, as I call myself “crazy” quite often, and actually prefer my friends say that in public instead of “schizophrenic.” But there’s a reason for that.
With all of the mental health awareness and empathy and activism and visibility; with all of the commercials for mental health medications and the popularity of therapy and self-awareness, no one seems to get, or to want to get, schizophrenia.
For examples, I’ll give you some stereotypes I, not just as a person with mental illness, but specifically a person with schizophrenia, wish I could just wipe from the collective memories of the human race.
1. Everyone with schizophrenia is a “religious freak” plagued by demons.
I do not have a “special relationship” with any God or devil. In fact, I don’t believe in a God or devil, though I do believe in heaven for animals. I don’t think my illness has anything to do with my spiritual maturation over time.
2. You can always tell someone has schizophrenia because they talk to themselves.
I do not jabber at my hallucinations. Addendum: as far as I know. I will sometimes blurt out at a persistent audio hallucination, but I do not converse audibly with my visual hallucinations. It’s enough that they are there. I treat them like errant ghosts and ignore them.
3. All people with schizophrenia are dangerous or violent.
I do not have abnormal or unusually violent fantasies. Everyone has a little bit of darkness in them, mine isn’t any darker than most. I’m always more a harm to myself than others when in psychotic states. In fact, when people with schizophrenia are violent, its usually because they have a history of other disorders, like addiction.
4. People with schizophrenia have no idea anything is wrong with them.
Although it’s true that 50 percent of people with live with schizophrenia also experience a lack of awareness of their condition, or anosognosia, that doesn’t apply to everyone. I know I’m sick.
5. When we’re testy it means we didn’t take our meds.
Medication doesn’t solve all problems and psychiatric medication doesn’t work like aspirin. I do take my medication seriously. I have worked diligently with my doctors over the years to get the most out of my medications with the least amount of side effects. I’ve gained weight on medication, I’ve been a zombie on medication, I have been worse on medication. Yes, I took my meds today. And even if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t make a difference to the temper tantrum I’m having now. Sometimes people get frustrated, that’s all.
6. People with schizophrenia must be sheltered from reality.
It’s OK for me to feel. I do not have to be shielded from the ugly and nasty and sad in life. Sure, I avoid the shelter animal commercials when I can because they make me sad, but that is mostly because I don’t want to be sad while I’m watching the morning news. It’s all right if I get angry, or happy, or a little bit hyper or a little depressed. Emotions are a natural part of life.
These things are not just true for me, they are true, to some extent, for a whole lot of people with schizophrenia. We are not all sitting in dark rooms listening to death metal while sharpening knives and making eyeless collages of people from high school. A lot of us are out in the world, going to our doctor appointments, taking our meds, trying to live a quality life. I can’t help but think that if more people could put a funny face on schizophrenia (see photo below), a lot of the above stereotypes would fade from view.
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