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How Hiding My Schizophrenia Made Me Feel Worse and Increased Stigma

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Last Saturday started like any other day. I woke up, got ready for the day and made my way to work — all while experiencing symptoms, such as hallucinations.

Work wasn’t any different, either except the hallucinations were agitating. A shadow hand kept blocking my screen, so I couldn’t read or make the orders correctly. I couldn’t hear customers even though I was wearing a headset because the voices and sounds never stop.

I tried to keep going. I thought I had burned my arm by spilling food, but when I looked down I saw one of my hallucinations burning me. I stepped away from the line to run cool water over my arms. My coworkers heard my cursing, but didn’t see what was happening. I went to get back on the line. I had to step away because standing next to me was my dead mother. I ran to the walk-in cooler to get away. A few minutes later, I came back out in time to hear my boss asking a coworker what had happened. They didn’t have a clue. They thought I was mad at myself for messing up. For the next few days, I did not go to classes or practice.

I decided to not hide it anymore. I told my professors exactly why I wasn’t in class instead of hiding behind a stomachache. I’d hidden things, so I didn’t frighten or worry people. I had kept things secret because I didn’t want to lose my job or teaching license. People may treat me different and I hate being treated differently. People would be scared. They wouldn’t know what to do if something went wrong. I was getting tired. I was worn down. It was not healthy.

I made a simple post on social media explaining things and said I wouldn’t be responding to most people for a while. Being honest was so freeing — I felt like I took some weight off my shoulders. I didn’t make myself care about others’ thoughts, and I was able to rest. I didn’t apologize for inconveniencing others, either. I realized that by “saving face,” I wasn’t helping myself or others. I’m all about destroying stigmas, but my lack of words didn’t help.

Now, people I haven’t talked to in a while are asking intelligent questions and some are confiding in me. Some relate and some are looking to understand. I got messages from others telling me it was inappropriate to post about my mental illness. One person even said it embarrassed them for me.

I’m looking at the positive here, though. I received support and, once I was feeling better, I educated some people on what schizophrenia actually is. Sometimes it is tiring explaining the same thing over and over again. Sometimes I don’t answer the questions, or I’ll wait. I haven’t found a solution to that yet, but for now I’m not hiding anymore.

Follow this journey on Love a Schizophrenic.

Getty image via Galina Zhigalova.

Originally published: October 25, 2019
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