There is a well-written first-person account of the experience of having schizophrenia by Stephen Sharp in this month’s London Review of Books. While there have been many personal accounts of schizophrenia written in books, this one is interesting because its freely available, well written and also conveys some of the experiences that are common in schizophrenia – from thought broadcasting, to random word associations, paranoia, distorted ideas of reference (thinking the newspeople are talking about them, etc. Stephen Sharp is a former post office clerk who attends groups run by the mental health charity Rethink in the UK. He has left his diary to the LRB in his will and this is the first excerpt from it. Following is a brief example of his writing.
“I was lacking what psychiatrists call insight. If you have insight then you accept you are mentally ill. If you don’t you are always likely to stop taking your medication. My community psychiatric nurse kept nagging me to try a drug called Clozapine. It was the miracle cure for treatment-resistant schizophrenia. When I relapsed and was back in hospital I decided to give it a try. Clozapine requires regular blood tests to assess the white cell count and for this reason is not dispensed by pharmacies but only directly by the mental health service. In the early days the medicine arrived through the post along with a monthly dose of Diazepam from the hospital. I had been warned that Diazepam was highly addictive and that I shouldn’t take it. But now I was sent a regular supply every four weeks. I was baffled. I didn’t take it and soon had a stash that would have been worth something to someone. A taxi driver who knew I had mental health problems quizzed me about whether I had any Diazepam. I said I didn’t. I could hear him whispering, ‘Go on ask me?’ If I was sane then he was taking a bit of a risk trying to procure a prescription high illegally and at the same time acting for Margaret Thatcher. It didn’t make sense so I didn’t ask him if he would drive me to F. I had learned that people never responded as I would have liked to this request. My nurse confiscated the Diazepam.”
Read the full diary except here: The ‘Belgrano’ and Me