Mother and daughter walking dog on road through forest

Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from the author’s daughter.

Does anyone journal? I find that when I am alone and have no one who will listen, I can journal and get my thoughts out on paper. One night, an exceptionally long night with my daughter who has schizophrenia, I started to write in my journal, and before I realized it, my little story was born.

Imagine a loved one you can’t imagine life without. A person you would literally lay down your life for. A spouse, parent, sibling, your children. Now imagine the thought of “IT” being a part of them. “IT” is with them 24/7, even in their sleep. That would be OK if “IT” were a nice, positive thing. But what if “IT” had a bad side? What if “IT” told your loved one they were ugly? What if “IT” told them they were too fat? What if “IT” said to your loved one, “You can’t leave the house today because you’re disgusting.”

Wouldn’t you be mad?

What if “IT” was starting to control their actions? What if “IT” told them that doctors, the dentist and EMS respondents were out to kill you? What if “IT” was outside your house? You can hear “IT,” it’s after them, it’s after their animals, it’s after their family members.

What if “IT” got inside their house? Where they are supposed to be safe? What if “IT” was on the other end of the couch talking to them? What if “IT” made it impossible to be in a crowd? What if “IT” tells them to hurt themselves? What if “IT” confused them in the middle of a sentence and all of a sudden they can’t remember what they were saying? What if “IT” showed them pictures beyond any horror movie they have ever seen? What if “IT” made everyone stare at them, talk about them, want to attack and hurt them?

Wouldn’t you just want to go after “IT”?

What if “IT” fed into their dreams every night. What if “IT” got them so confused they can’t tell you where they are when they have lived in this town for almost eight years?

I betcha you would want them to stop?

What if “IT” scared your loved one so bad, they hyperventilated to the point where an ambulance was called? Would you want to intervene on your loved one’s behalf? What if “IT” wasn’t always bad? What if “IT” made sure they were never alone? What if your loved one didn’t want “IT” to go completely away forever?

Wouldn’t you try to explain the bad side of “IT”?

What if your loved one is losing control of “IT”? What if “IT” was part of your loved one? What if there is no chance of ever getting rid of “IT”? What if other people have had “IT” to0, and some manage, but some don’t? Would you fight tooth and nail? What if “IT” was making your loved one unable to make simple decisions? What if “IT” was taking over your loved one?

The “IT” I am referring to is paranoid schizophrenia. There is no known cure. “IT” will never go away. Sometimes “IT” can be managed with medications, sometimes “IT” cannot. So happy to say my child has IT under control at the moment and she is doing very well living with IT.

I am the mother of a 22-year-old with paranoid schizophrenia. She started having symptoms at 11 years old. She kept her illness hidden from anyone and everyone until she could no longer hide it. When she was young, I can’t recall anything out of the ordinary. We had moved to a new town and a new house. She didn’t seem to like being in her room or going in there for anything. I found out later that’s where she saw her first hallucination. She didn’t sleep alone, she always slept with her brother. That was about all I can remember that was somewhat out of place. I chalked it up to a new house and town.

As time went on things started changing with her. At around 12 years old, her friends were her life. She wanted to be with them 24/7. She had to be with them 24/7. When she wasn’t with them she was miserable, depressed, crying and absolutely scared to death that they were talking about her and turning on her. She became obsessed with being with them at all times. She got in with a bad girl who liked to do the exact thing she was most paranoid about. Turn friends against her. The depression that followed was heartbreaking. It was about this time that she became secluded. She withdrew from the family a bit. She would just stay in her room, didn’t want to eat, talk, watch TV or anything.

Between 14 and 15 she had definite changes in her behavior. She would get stuck on an idea or plan and if it didn’t go how she planned it, things got really bad for her. She became even more withdrawn. We had always been so close, and I felt like I didn’t know her at all. I couldn’t seem to relate to her as I didn’t know what was going on with her. She never wanted to be at home. She always wanted to be gone. She would take the bus in town early in the day and not come home till the last bus at 10 p.m. She was very secretive about who she was with or where she had been. I would hear her sometimes talking to herself in her room. I was so worried about her and it broke my heart to see her so hopeless and sad all the time.

One night she got angry. The rage  was unlike anything I had ever seen in her. She has always been a quiet, very polite, loving, kind and gentle person. She suddenly threw open the door screaming on the phone late at night. She took off to see someone at the bus stop. When she got home she was out of control. It was the first time I had ever seen her like this. It hurts me to this day to recount the image of her face so heartbroken. She came back and proceeded to destroy her room. She threw furniture, clothes. I didn’t understand. This was when I sought out counseling.

We went to a couple different counselors. I was so desperate to help her. I wanted to see my happy daughter and feel her warmth.

She had always tried her best in school and never was able to just glide through. She worked harder than most just to pass. She is dyslexic and has reading comprehension issues. We had her in a school for additional help. We hired tutors and did all we could to help. The kids were heartless about it. In the 10th grade a kid started a rumor that she was a devil worshiper and she was bullied horribly. I kept her out for a few days. She was petrified to go back. I made her and within 20 minutes she called me crying. Some kids attacked her in the lunch room. That was it. I pulled her out for home school after that. This is something we have been unable to complete due to her illness. She longs to have her GED and she will some day.

At 15, she would rig her room with “booby traps” to make sure no one went in while she was in town all day. Desperate for answers, I risked it and went in. Later that night she got home and went to her room. All of a sudden she screams, “Who the f** was in my room?” She had never spoken like that before. She was angrier than I had ever imagined. Furious isn’t even adequate to explain how mad she was. I was so disappointed and mad at myself for invading her space, ruining her trust, taking away her privacy. I was just so desperate to help her, and wanted to know what was going on. In my eyes, I was literally fighting a battle to save my baby girl. She was yelling at me and I was crying and she was crying and I can’t remember her exact words, but she was saying I can’t help her and that it’s pointless to try. That nothing could be done to change the way things are. I was pleading with her to let me in and let me help her. All of a sudden she ripped off bracelets that went all the way up both arms and there were cuts. I about fell to my knees. The pain rippled through me. I just kept rubbing her arms, crying, begging her to never do it again. I had heard of cutting, but didn’t know anything about it. As I sit here recounting that night, I have tears rolling down my face.

It wasn’t very long after that she confided in me about the voices.

She has three voices, each with district characteristics and personalities. She has names for them as well. There’s a man, a woman and a teenager. The man is the most hateful. He calls her horrible names, tells her how unworthy she is, tells her to hurt herself. The lady is bipolar, according to my daughter. She usually follows the man’s lead. The teenager was usually nice, but when the other two were being ugly, the teenager was quiet. Years later she would identify the teenager as her best friend who was physically abused to the point that he took his own life.

These voices pretty much dictate where she goes, if she can turn a TV on, radio on, if she can have new shoes, what she will be doing and her self-esteem. The man tells her to do bad things. She is still in control over that portion. Even at her worse, she never hurt anyone or did anything he told her to do. At the present time she only has the two voices. Her best friend has disappeared. This makes her very sad. For a long time she didn’t want to lose the voices all together. She said she’s afraid to be alone. But now, they are mainly mean.

It took a couple months before I could get her to agree to see a doctor. I have manic depression, and urged her to go to a psychiatrist I love. The voices were very ugly about her going. They would instruct her not to talk to him and to not listen to him. In time, though, she started to let her guard down a bit. Eventually she agreed to medication. It took close to a year to find the right medications to stabilize her. She hated the process of finding new meds, but she is finally doing very well on this regimen of medication. She would occasionally have a bad day or night. but no where near like it was. I was seeing the smile I had missed for so long again. I was seeing my baby girl again. There were times during the process of finding the right medicines that the doctor advised hospitalizing her, but I fought for my child.

One thing that became very clear was the lack of support through this. It’s a very lonely feeling to not have your family supporting you during one of the biggest fights of you and your child’s life. I tried talking to friends about it, but they grew tired of the constant bad news, sad news and desperation in my story, so they left too. I was all alone in a the chaotic world of mental illness. I am still very much alone in the care of my daughter.

Then one day, she came home and told me she was pregnant. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty devastated at first. How will all this affect her mental health? What will happen when she has an episode and is carrying the baby? How will she raise a baby?

She decided to keep the baby. I am her mother so I decided to put my big girl panties on and support her in any way I can. The day I realized how important and how serious she was about this child was the day we went to the OB/GYN and they came in to take blood. She had not had blood drawn in over 10 years. She was trembling from head to toe, crying her heart out, telling me, “I know they are going to kill me, I know it.” I did my best to  hold her trembling arm so the nurse could draw the blood. She overcame one of her biggest fears has that day. I know to some having blood drawn is no big deal. For us, that was like climbing Mount Everest.

She never missed a doctor’s appointment. She quit smoking. She went to the doctor, still scared to death, trembling and fearful. She had a very dramatic pregnancy due to a lot of unnecessary chaos and stress from the baby’s father, who was battling addiction. Labor was coming. We got to the hospital and they wouldn’t let us go back with her. Not a good thing at all. It took over two hours for them to let us go back with her. She was extremely scared by the time we got there. I always admired the strength in my child. But the strength she had the day my granddaughter was born is like superhero strength. She somehow found the courage to get through it and give birth to one of the most beautiful gifts our family has ever received. On October 29, 2014 my beautiful granddaughter was born into this world.

It’s been six months since the birth of my granddaughter. My daughter is on disability and lives in her own apartment. That has always been her dream. She currently is having some trouble with her illness, but the baby’s father and I are by her side. I am glad to report he has been sober for two months now and is an incredible dad to this baby. She lives less than five minutes away so I can get to her. She is a wonderful mother and I am so incredibly proud of everything she’s accomplished.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s perspective. The Mighty consists of a team of various religious beliefs and faiths. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

I have schizophrenia and I have been married for 13 years. I also have two wonderful children, ages 11 and 4. I am living proof that someone with a severe mental illness can be married and raise children effectively. I will say, having a wife and kids has been a huge challenge. I take a high number of antipsychotics. To avoid being severely delusional I need to take my meds every day, no breaks. I get terrible fatigue and I experience a ton of negative side effects. A lack of pleasure in any activity hurts the worst. I rely on my belief in God and on creative projects to renew my mind. These activities shake the cobwebs from my numb mind and body, allowing me to be emotionally available for my family.

I nearly got divorced around seven years ago. I tried to quit taking my meds, as I couldn’t stand the punishment anymore. Bad idea. I survived that terrible season and my wife and I worked things out. My wife has endured an incredible roller coaster. When we were engaged, she visited me in a holding tank facility. I was locked up in a cell, awaiting admission to a locked psych ward facility. I was dangerous and completely “insane.” That didn’t stop her. Her courage and love are amazing. Over the years she has learned how to love someone with schizophrenia. It takes a unique perspective and support. She has always admired my loving heart. Through all the drama created by mental illness, she recognized my heart and chose to love that when schizophrenia showed its face. Overall, our life together is defined by love and a mutual respect. No relationship is free of challenges.

We published a book together titled, “Marriage and Schizophrenia: Eyes on the Prize.” It was great therapy for us and helped us spend quality time together and talk through the incredible journey we have both survived. It may help you learn what it’s like to have a long term relationship with someone with schizophrenia. Hopefully, you will decide mental illness shouldn’t stop you from being in a relationship that has mental health challenges. Don’t let worries define your heart.

If there is one recent character trait that has helped my family life more than anything else, it is the art of surrender. My illness has forced me to be more submissive. Surrender came hard for me. I played semi-professional hockey for a year before schizophrenia changed my life. Surrender saved my marriage though. It also gave me a strong relationship to my children. A hardcore work ethic and rigorous practice plan did not help me overcome schizophrenia, or be a great husband and father. Finding a new healthy life with severe mental health issues required me to stop taking everything into my own hands. I felt I needed God’s strength and the help of others to reach my goals.

When I finally truly accepted the permanent nature of my “broken” brain, healing began. I committed myself to taking the full dose of medications and living a life that made me a great family man. I still make mistakes but I am willing to admit those mistakes now. I am also willing to admit that I don’t always have a good grip on reality. I live with a more humble attitude. I am not as ashamed to have schizophrenia either.

At the breaking point of my marriage, I began accepting other people’s view of reality as more trustworthy than my own. I worked on not being as defensive. At first, I was devastated. It’s not easy to pass the reigns of your life to other people. Since those beginning stages of surrender, I matured and gained the keys back to my life… in some ways. I also feel I had life-changing experiences with God. In some ways, I feel lucky for developing schizophrenia and learning to surrender. I wouldn’t be married, or have children. And without being forced to surrender to God and healthy people. I would’ve missed out on the spiritual revelations and experiences that birthed a constant stream of joy, peace and stability I now enjoy. I can see Heaven within reach these days. I can see the light and freedom even now. Schizophrenia can no longer rule my mind with cruelty, in the presence of this light.

Starting the process of surrender crushed me, but I now get to look back and smile as I enjoy my new life. I am truly grateful to just be alive. If you could know all I’ve been through with severe schizophrenia, and all the horrible choices I made, you would know it is a miracle I am still alive, let alone happily married with two children.

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I am an English teacher. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2012, the year I started my teaching career.

I attempted suicide, and survived, that December 21st night. The same day the Mayas predicted the end of an era. This was a new life. New beginning. New lifestyle. My life got better. In 2013, I received treatment, so I took pills and the good news kept coming. I was accepted into a teaching program. I got a job which a maintained for three years. A teacher with schizophrenia. Can you imagine that? How excited I was. I enjoyed this job. I taught kids, teens and adults. Then I got a beautiful girlfriend. We lasted two years as a couple. I proposed to her and she said yes, but her parents would not allow me to be with her. Then my parents got divorced, and my girlfriend almost left me. In 2015, I ended up in the hospital during my second episode.

The doctor said I would be there for two weeks, but I recovered fast. I met my friend Angela, who taught me how to breathe, how to meditate, to feel the aura of the plants, to recognize the nature and the beauty in it; to be a “normal” person as “normal” am I. I saw her stretching her arms and body. It was amazing the calm she reflected. While in the hospital, I also wanted to be visited. I liked to see my mother, my father, but my girlfriend never appeared, or my brother. I was relieved my mind healed fast so I could see my girlfriend.

We broke up next year: 2016. This was a bad year, one of the worst of my life. I wanted to be with her. In addition, my parents were deciding where I could live after the divorce arrangement. I lived alone, but I fell into depression. I was sad because everything I was fighting for was falling down again. This year started without my girlfriend, without a house, without parents together and without a job. The only thing left was my schooling. This year was my last.

My senior year I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and this was hard. I didn’t finish school. My dreams were vanishing just like a purposeless bell-shaped broken heart ringing to silence. I cried a lot.

But I will keep it up. I will finish my career. Everything I fought for is not going to be in vain. I am planning to come back the next two years to finish my B.A in English, even if it takes eight years to end this one. I only need to be recognized by the people I love the most: my family and the people I could inspire, such as my own dear students. So, I will finish my B.A. One day I will thank everybody and God. Oh God, music and superheroes saved my life.

See you then! I will come back! Stronger and better. There is time.

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If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Recently I was asked to speak at a men’s group on my new book. After giving a short presentation, I opened the door for questions. The first question was, “So what is schizophrenia?”

In my infinite wisdom… Yeah, right. I answered with a nervous, tired reply: “Well, we don’t really know.” My answer to that question was initially lack luster. Thankfully, I did add many further educated comments on the subject.

That question has followed me around the last few weeks. To understand what schizophrenia is, or what society has chosen to believe, I think it’s important to talk about basic scientific principles, spiritual perspectives, and personal experience. To me, if a person ignores one aspect of these categories, negative stigma towards mental health issues is enforced. I feel slightly offended and limited when someone tells me I simply have a biological problem that’s treatable with medications. I think it’s vital to admit we don’t fully understand schizophrenia. Even the most brilliant scientific minds have to admit that there is no known cure to the illness.  Many people with schizophrenia would prefer not to be labeled as “ill.” Some people with schizophrenia think they are gifted, or at least unique in a positive sense. Some people labeled with schizophrenia also don’t like the name.

“Madness” or mental illness has been around and recorded for thousands of years. To better understand schizophrenia, you have to talk about its history. The term schizophrenia was first coined in 1908. In 1886 the illness was associated with dementia. Schizophrenia was first labeled dementia praecox — early onset of dementia. The treatment of schizophrenia has drastically improved over the last 100 years since it was first recognized as a mood disorder. Schizophrenia does not mean people have a split personality. Many people are fighting for society to understand that mental illness, including schizophrenia, is a biological health problem treatable with medications. While this is true, I think it’s important to understand that in my experience, the treatments available for schizophrenia are not ideal or comprehensive. Many well-meaning people overlook the fact that drugs available have so many negative side effects that most people can’t stand to take a large enough dose to combat their symptoms, especially for consistent, prolonged periods of time.

In my opinion, success over schizophrenia usually involves personal development. If you want to help the mentally ill and understand schizophrenia, I encourage you to research scientific, environmental, spiritual and personal perspectives of the condition. NAMI.org is a great starting point. Catholicism has a number of great publications on mental health issues. There are numerous memoirs available to read. Understanding the personal dynamics of mental health issues is life changing. Schizophrenia extends beyond the comforts of one basic definition.

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I didn’t want to speak. I didn’t want to be noticed. I didn’t want to be bothered. I wanted to be completely ignored. It was high school, and I was an undiagnosed paranoid Schizophrenic. I remember thinking, What’s the point? What was the point of doing homework or getting good grades? I didn’t think it would matter for me. I never thought I would graduate high school. I thought I would be dead soon. How? I thought I would kill myself before graduation.

High school is hard. But in my experience as a paranoid schizophrenic, it’s unreal. Imagine you’re sitting in a classroom, and the teacher is speaking. But instead of listening to the teacher, you’re listening to the voices in your head. I didn’t know they were voices at the time. I thought I just had vivid thoughts and daydreams. In class, I was thinking about my interactions with friends. Do they like me? Are they actually my friends? Do I say silly things? Maybe I should just stop talking. I hate everything. I just wanna die. And then I would come back to reality. Defeated. I hated myself. Class would be over soon, and I have no idea what the teacher spoke about. The bell would ring and it would be time to go to the next class. Then once again, the same process would repeat. I didn’t mean to not pay attention in class, I was schizophrenic.

Then we would have our lunch break. I had to interact with classmates. Sometimes this could run smoothly, however the negative thoughts would often happen. What am I saying? Am I eating weird? How do I form a normal conversation? Am I just strange? I tried to stick with people I knew my whole life. Although I’d be insulted by the people who claimed to be my friends, it was better than being alone. These confusing interactions would make me uneasy, uncomfortable, awkward. These negative thoughts in my head would be mean, and make me mad. I wasn’t a bitch, I was schizophrenic.

The one joy I had in high school was joining the Lacrosse team my freshman year and continuing to play throughout high school. It was my outlet for all of my pent up aggression and anger. I would run around the field like a maniac. I was playing aggressive, which is how I thought I should play. Women’s Lacrosse is supposed to be noncontact, however. I would elbow people, knock people over and slam into anyone who dared to try taking a shot on my goalie. Eventually, my coach approached me. She told me that sometimes when she watched me play, it looked like I was playing the game how it’s supposed to be played, although quite often it seemed like I was playing just to hurt people. I had a lot pent up aggression. I didn’t try to purposely harm people, I was schizophrenic.

So here I am. Ten years after high school graduation. Alive. Sometimes it amazes me that I made it through high school. Sometimes, I don’t really know how I made it. I think I was scared to actually do it, and I’m glad I didn’t. Be an undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic in high school was not easy. I wish I would’ve accepted help sooner. I just had to realize it in myself, when I was ready. When you realize you’re ready, your life can change for the better. Don’t be afraid to admit there is a problem. If you feel something is wrong, speak to someone. Once you gain the courage to speak up, your life will change in many positive ways.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via kevinhillillustration.


Paranoia is something that has plagued me for almost my entire life. It can ruin relationships between family, friends and anyone who tries to help you. You believe people who are actually trying to help you are trying you hurt you. Paranoia can make it hard to get help because you don’t trust anyone around you. Being schizophrenic, I thought the voices in my head telling me not to trust anyone were right, and that I shouldn’t tell anyone about what I was experiencing. I decided to make an infographic about signs, causes and treatments of paranoia. I hope you find it informative. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. – Michelle, Creator of Schizophrenic.NYC

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Thinkstock photo via Kuzma

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