I'm A Schizophrenic — And You Might Be One, Too

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woman looking out window

Trigger Warning: Graphic writing on general mental illness, suicide, and paranoid schizophrenia.

I know one schizophrenic. He's my uncle and he makes me laugh a lot. But when I ask the question, Where my schizophrenics at? he doesn't really count, because if you're schizophrenic, I'm willing to bet someone else in your family is, too. 

There was one other schizophrenic in my family but she died in a mental institution before I was born with foil wrapped around her head. I have yet to do some sh*t like that, but I wouldn't rule it out.

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I would like to talk to you about having schizophrenia:

Imagine being in a restaurant ordering a burger and you have all the voices of the diners polluting the air above your head, along with a voice next to your ear demanding you kill yourself. And the guy asks you three times how you want your burger cooked and you keep saying, "What? I'm sorry, I didn't hear you," because, really, how could you possibly understand what he's saying?

He says slowly, "How. Do. You. Want. Your. Burger. Cooked?" like your brain is developmentally disabled or a pothead. 

But you aren't a pothead; you have schizophrenia.

Photo: Author

Have you ever been with a group of friends who are drunk and messing around and talking crap to each other, and you have that one friend who says off-the-wall sh*t that doesn't even make sense — you're not even sure if it's English? And everyone gets quiet and awkward and wonders why they keep inviting him out? That friend of yours is probably schizophrenic.

For schizophrenics, reality doesn't make sense and if reality doesn't make sense, it's really hard for our words to. Try carrying on a conversation while voices as loud as your radio in your car are screaming at you that you're a horrible person/you're ugly/you're worthless/ you should slit your wrists.

Have you ever had to deal with a difficult person who hated you? Have you ever convinced yourself, because this person doesn't like you, they must be plotting to kill you? You know it's an irrational thought, but then they get close to you and you start to shake with fear and cry. You cry so hard and you can't stop until they go away. 

Nobody's trying to kill you. You're just schizophrenic.

Am I begging for your sympathy? No, I'm not. Treat me like an idiot if you want, a crazy person, make fun of me because the things I say in a social situation make zero sense. The truth is, I don't care. I'm just trying my best to be a normal person and to be accepted.

I accepted a long time ago that I would never be accepted and these days I just don't care because I've lost so many people due to my illness and I can't spend that emotional energy anymore.

Photo: Author

What I do care about, though, is the fact that I don't know any other schizophrenics. I know plenty of people with anxiety and with ADHD and with bipolar disorder and autism, but I don't know any schizophrenics and I want to know where they're at.

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There are so many mental health advocates out there (which is wonderful) but the majority of them are advocating for bipolar disorder and autism and again, where are the schizophrenics?

I realize a lot of them are dead. Forty percent of people diagnosed with schizophrenia in America attempt to commit suicide. That's 1.4 million people in this country alone. (But that leaves 2.1 of you around these parts and I know at least a few of you have Twitter.)

And that's why I wrote my memoir Paper Souls — because I couldn't find any books that told the realistic story of schizophrenia. The reality is: people are scared. Probably because the only thing anyone knows about schizophrenia is the mentally ill shooting up malls and schools. 

They don't the other side of it. Someone like me, living with schizophrenia, running operations as VP of a non-profit organization, writing books, editing, all when I'm not working at my full-time job. No one sees that when they hear schizophrenia.

But if you're scared of schizophrenics, how do you think we feel? People with schizophrenia don't advocate for it because we're scared. We're scared that you're going to lock us up for breathing. Fire us from our jobs. Throw us in an institution the second we speak up.

But schizophrenia needs a voice — pun intended. You can come out now. I got your back.

Photo: Author

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A Bestselling Author, NPO VP, and Psychology Today Blogger from Burbank, California, Allie Burke writes books she can’t find in the bookstore. Having been recognized as writing a “kickass book that defies the genre it’s in”, Allie writes with prose that has been labeled poetic and ethereal.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.