Being “Labeled” with Schizophrenia: My Journey Through, to Help Change the Narrative
About eight months ago, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. At the time, receiving this diagnosis broke me - I thought my life was over. My main and only symptom that "qualified" me to be slapped with this "label" was: auditory hallucinations.
The onset of my hallucinations came about two years ago when I had a psychotic episode where I had almost no insight into my own mental health. This was extremely challenging for someone like myself, who is a nurse by training, and a loyal mental health advocate. I'd known and learned to manage some of my more generalised mental health symptoms before (because we all have them at times in our lives), but I didn't think I was ever a "candidate" for symptoms like this.
During this episode, I believed strongly that people were filming me in my bedroom and bathroom...that people in my neighbourhood were Air BnBing houses to people who were stalking me, just to put fear into me and my life. I thought ASIO (Australian Security Dept.), and the army were crawling around in my roof cavity. It was severe.
I even went so far as to contact a lawyer and the best QC in Western Australia as I wanted to take legal action against these people. The hallucinations I was having all came in the form of screaming voices of people I know - so I actually contacted friends to let them know my legal team would be in touch with them to protect them, because others had committed identity theft - in order to scare me. It wasn’t until later I realised there was nobody to take legal action against - my brain was playing tricks on me.
I told Eric from #SameHere , who I'd been friends with for five years, through the advocacy world - and some other friends about this, with the belief that it was actually happening. Eric got so worried about me that he called my local police station in the country town I live in, in Australia, to do a wellness check, all the way from New York where he lives.
My hallucinations had completely taken over my sense of reality - they WERE my reality. It was only after they stopped and I came out of this episode, that I realised how obscure they were...and traumatising. To this day I’m still haunted by that episode. But fast forward a couple of years and I am now in a place, through therapy and my own hard work, where I can detach from the auditory hallucinations I get, and see them for what they are - SYMPTOMS of my mental health. That's right - Schizophrenia is just a label for the symptoms I have - just like anyone else has symptoms of their own mental health - insomnia, ruminating thoughts, heaviness, emotional numbness, etc. The label isn’t who I am. The label isn't who you are.
When I get auditory hallucinations now I am completely aware that they aren’t real. I can sit back and listen to them without judgement of myself because I know they are false. The theme is always the same - that someone has set up a camera in my room and is recording everything I do, down to the medications I take. They also record what I’m writing on my phone or computer, like they can see everything. This is where through my healing journey I've learned to rationalise and tell myself that nobody has a camera set up, the voices are hallucinations (unless there are tiny people living in the walls :)), nobody can read your phone or computer and nobody is out to get you. There is nothing tangible about them - like when you have a conversation face-to-face with a friend - that is tangible as they are right in front of you. Auditory hallucinations are not tangible and being able to see them for what they are has totally changed the way I deal with the SYMPTOMS of this label, I've been given, of Schizophrenia. I am able to go about my life "normally" because I have learned to tame the symptoms - much like other people can do - with their own mental health.
My symptoms exist on a spectrum, like everyone else's mental health. There are many others like me who can completely detach from the hallucinations, and live with, and manage them for however long they last.
It isn’t easy getting to that place of insight, but I promise you that if I can do it, you can too. Think of your hallucinations as negative thoughts and let them go...just like we learn to do with other mental health symptoms. Realise you are in control of your mental health and you will get through this. And don’t be fooled by the label of Schizophrenia or any label for that matter. It’s just a word in an attempt to classify similarities…it’s not who YOU are. We are all human. We all struggle. We all have symptoms. Let's all work together, not allow ourselves to be separated by buckets.
#SameHere 🤙 #5in5 #iRel8 #beheretomorrow #Labels #MentalHealth #Schizophrenia #nolabels