I’m so appreciative of MHT, because it gives us all a platform to openly share our experiences without fear of shame or judgment. I want to share my own experiences with schizophrenia so that others who may be experiencing the same thing can read it and find comfort knowing they are not alone, and possibly hope and faith in knowing that things will get better!
I’m going to fast-forward through much of the beginning of my life. We know schizophrenia has genetic and environmental factors. It goes to say that while neither of my parents is schizophrenic, one is very obsessive in the sense that she’s just over the threshold of being a hoarder. She is a very kind and compassionate woman. My father, however, did contribute genetic and environmental problems. He is very anxious, very impulsive, and very compulsive. He tends to be domineering and oppressive, frightening everyone into agreeing with him or at least cowering beneath him. This, in addition to some episodes of sexual abuse, laid a horrible foundation for a youngster. I learned how to communicate all of my emotions through one: anger. I also learned how to think like my father, which meant “black and white” authoritative thinking.
Quickly speeding through high school and college, I strived to achieve, I believe in order to satisfy my insatiable father. I turned away from my dreams to pursue academics. I also fell in love and was crushed by a lying and manipulative girlfriend for four years. The end result of this was abandoning my straightedge lifestyle in order to harm my father, my girlfriend, and myself. I began experimenting with marijuana, which led to mushrooms and LSD. What first began as a wonderful unfolding of my preconceived notions and beliefs, and a lessening of my anxieties and fears, became a whirlwind descent into an alien experience of this familiar world.
Ultimately, I ended up having too much of what seemed to be a good thing, and experienced what I later came to call an acute psychotic break. This “snap” came the day after a bad trip. I was feeling good and euphoric like usual, but suddenly I “awoke,” very much so in the Buddhist and Hindu sense of the word. But I had no clue about these philosophies and experiences, so this new hyper-awareness honestly scared me. I began being very frightened and the simple realizations like the autonomous beating of my heart, the process of breathing and walking, and the fact that I had only two arms versus three or four. That sounds very silly to any outsider, but I’m sure many of you understand exactly what I’m trying to get across.
I suffered alone with this for a few weeks, at a very intense level. I was having a constant panic attack the entire time I was awake. I managed to hang on long enough for this to subside, but naturally it all was too much and I also became depressed. I had bouts of crying and a lost of interest in anything and everything. My experience became so utterly different. It is impossible to describe, an ineffable experience. I later came to know this experience as the combination of depersonalization and derealization.
All of this was, I understood, were symptoms of extreme generalized anxiety, so I began studying more and more. I read psychology books (eventually went and got a degree!). I read spirituality books and began meditating. I took yoga classes. The list of things I was willing to try got longer and longer as I avoided medication. I even went to a therapist who was suggesting medication and I still waited. And I did manage to get these symptoms under control somewhat. I managed to not panic any more, but the free-floating anxiety was still there. It was existentially based, with me constantly ruminating about the big questions of life. I learned to put those things down, and I quit doing other obsessive things like praying in my mind or running mantras constantly. These things helped my mind to become quiet and let me take a rest from it all for a while.
Years passed as I began to feel a little better. I was able to look back on the experience and realize that my experiences fit the bill for schizophrenic episode. At the peak of my symptoms, I experience hallucinations, delusions of persecution, delusions of having some special cosmic role to play, and more. I was experiencing synchronicities several times a day and having delusions of reference, where it seemed like music, movies, textbooks, and more were speaking specifically to my experiences and me as if God was communicating to me through them. Somehow, I did manage to hang on to a thread of awareness that was able to say, “Now don’t over react. This could be real, but it could not be real. Just take it like that and you’ll be fine.” I somehow knew not to run around telling everyone my thoughts, which probably kept me out of some kind of residential treatment facility.
The frequency of those acute symptoms slowed down and I began to attribute spiritual meaning to them, rather than a “real” meaning that could end up getting me in trouble if I began acting out of the assumption that they were concrete and not relative to just me.
Time has passed since these things happened. It is now five years later or so. Although the symptoms lessened as time passed, I could have certainly accelerated things. Last year, I did decide to begin a regimen of medication, and I’m so glad I did. My baseline experience is so much higher than it has ever been in my entire life. There is zero exaggeration to that statement. It’s hard to know how cruddy you feel when you’ve only known ‘cruddiness.’ I’m glad I got over my own stigma and fear of medication, because it has been the second best thing to happen to me besides these experiences.
I’ve grown as a person in all facets of life because of this period of my life. I’m more compassionate, intelligent, wise, sociable, and actionable! I run my own business! It’s great, but I’d never have gotten where I am without these challenges. So if you are feeling down about whatever you are experiencing right now, just keep it in perspective, because it could be the launch pad for something great. That’s up to you though.
You have to put forth the effort to grow and not let it drag you backwards.
Leap this hurdle, and you’ll be running full speed at life and those who haven’t had to struggle won’t have the advantages you have. No fear, no giving up, and no mercy! Conquer your illness and then conquer life as a whole!
Jared’s experiences with schizophrenia inspired him to start an information hub concerning all of the information surrounding this mental illness. You can find this information and more at his website: www.SchizLife.com
You can view all of Jared’s MHT guest posts by clicking here.