How Great is Our God in HEBREW,

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Are People with Schizophrenia to be Feared?

Stigma is a huge issue to someone with SZ...We are surrounded by misinformation and a deluded public. (Yes, it's the public, in this case, who is suffering from delusion!)  I think I have addressed many of these misconceptions previously but I will outline them here and then focus on one in particular.

Firstly, there is the idea that SZ is the same as Multiple Personality Disorder.  Two words: It's not.  They are completely  unrelated illnesses.  The media has fostered this mistaken they have fueled many of the others.

Second, having SZ is a dramatic, exciting thing.  Granted, in the rough moments of psychosis, things can get dramatic.  But for the majority of people with SZ it is a quiet, uneventful struggle.  We sit alone in our homes or bedrooms, staring at a TV set, listening to music,...or just staring at the walls, listening to our own thoughts.  Social anxiety (and paranoia) make it difficult for us to interact in a public venue...but Stigma too often drives us to the safety of our homes.  We do not go many places, talk to many people., go on vacations...not easily anyway.  Even for a high functioning person such as myself, a social situation can leave  me in the parking lot pacing and counting the minutes til it's over.  I am fortunate to have a church family where I can interact with a level that is usually tolerable to me...but lately, it has been less easy.

Third there is the wrong idea that SZ can be cured by therapy or getting our act together. WRONG.  It is a biological degenerative disease of the brain.  Differences exist physically and observably in the brains of patients with SZ.

Fourth, there is the idea that people with SZ are violent, unpredictable and to be feared.  While, yes that can be true during unmedicated periods or times of extreme stress...a person with SZ can act in ways that can appear to be violent...and I suppose that in rare cases, they are violent...but usually these times are spawned by fear.  A paranoid person, in times of psychosis, really thinks that something extremely dangerous is or is about to happen to them.  And they may react in ways that are unusual in an effort (as they perceive it) to protect themselves.

I can say with certainty that every time I've been launched into violence, it is due to a thwarted effort to escape the situation which is frightening me. In my most recent trip to the ER which led to my being hospitalized...I was left in a paper gown standing in the corner of an empty room alone for well over an hour, being observed through a one way window.  This made  me extremely anxious and I decided to simply walk out into the hall to find out why I was there...Instantly I was surrounded by uniformed security guards.  This probably would have intimidated anyone...but in my terrified state-- already believing that my life was in danger--I reacted with a panicked attempt to escape...Naturally they grabbed me at which point I completely lost control of myself and fought with everything in me.  And this is a common scenario.

People with SZ will act in very strange ways sometimes...prompted by attempts to make themselves feel safe usually.  These actions may be misunderstood by normal people because they are not thinking with or understanding the warped logic that goes on in the mind of someone with SZ.  For  example,  I constantly struggle with the need to wear sunglasses while in public...because of my fear of my soul being stolen through my eyes.  It's sometimes all I can do not to wear them into a church service.  And when I arrived at the hospital on a recent trip, they demanded that I hand over my sunglasses...  I was already feeling terrified and threatened... Naturally I resisted this demand--with a lot of energy.

Here is a quote from the website of SZ Magazine quoting or rather discussing something said by Torrey in his well known book , "Surviving Schizophrenia":

People with schizophrenia often perceive their caregivers as enemies because they enforce difficult rules. Under a new Ontario law, designated decision-makers―typically parents―can obtain the legal authority to hospitalize their children or force them to take medication that often carries unpleasant side effects such as weight gain. *
*SZ Magazine's website is :  

I can strongly attest to the truth of this statement.  My husband has made the demand that I must take my medication if I am to remain living in our home...with him as my spouse.  He has also called for the authorities to help him get me to a hospital when I've been out of control and vociferously refusing to go.  I personally HATE my medication.  I know that it is toxic and it has damaged my intelligence and memory...It has made me overweight and it costs my money which I could honestly put to more interesting use elsewhere.    And this opinion is shared by many many people with SZ.  Also we can get to a point where we are feeling better, believe we are then cured and can go it alone without pharmaceutical aid.  And so we go off of it.  And sometimes a year or more can pass where we feel SO much better...think more quickly and feel less slowed down...but almost always..there will come the crash.  My last crash was major...and lasted for close to three years before I was once more "stabilized' and could function.  And this crash left its damage on me cognitively and otherwise...My symptoms now are much worse than they were prior to it.

Most people with SZ are mild mannered, shy, and retiring...NOT the type to be aggressive or violent.  Although this can happen...especially when unmedicated or in the midst of a psychotic episode.  The truth is that my  friends who also suffer with SZ are some of the nicest people I know and while many of us have had our "times" in our past where things got out of hand,  a person who is undergoing treatment and cooperating with it, generally is a person to get to know and invest some time in...because they have  a lot to offer.

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