Waking from a schizophrenic's nightmare
By Lori Schiller

I remember little of what happened in my life in the past eight years -- probably because of 21 shock treatments. I suppose it's a lot like an alcoholic's blackout. Life seems dark, scary and fragmented. I battled strange, ominous Voices and Sights in a forever tormented day-to-day nightmare. I couldn't get relief from my psychotic world. I wanted to die desperately in an effort to free myself from this world. The first time I heard those derogatory Voices was as a teenager. I didn't know what was happening to me. I felt like I was possessed, and my mind was infected by demonic spirits.

I was afraid to tell anyone about the Voices for fear of being carried off by the "white coats." Imagine being a 15 year-old kid hearing the words over and over again: "You must die. You will die." And, imagine a naive little squirt keeping the echoing vicious Voices inside of herself for many, many years without sharing the pain and fright with anyone. Eventually, I entered the "revolving door" into the so-called mental health system. The doctors, so dapper and professional in their psychiatric style and attire, told my parents that I was a paranoid schizophrenic who had little chances of getting better. My diagnosis was just another "sick chronic psychiatric patient" to be shoved away forever in some hospital. I can imagine how crushed my parents were, with their ignorance about mental illness and suffering along with me. But they didn't give up hope. Never.

I have always wanted to be someone special. If I lived a regular, ordinary life to age 85, it would be like living under cobwebs in an old attic. I'd be a nobody. Dead by my own hand (a "me-murder") was my answer. So my imagination became infested with all kinds of me-murders. Some of my favorites to relish were standing on a bridge, pouring a can of gasoline over my head, lighting a match, and as I went up in flames, jumping onto the highway to my end. How about death by jumping inside a ferocious animal's cage at the Bronx Zoo? Or maybe hoarding pills of whatever sort, grinding them all up in a blender as ingredients to a chocolate milk shake and drinking it down with a straw?

As frightening as these potential suicidal scenarios seem, they are all held for me a real ending of tranquillity and eternal peace. I'd prayed for this, and then visualize myself in a coffin, rotting like an old potato, with worms coming out of my nostrils, and all kinds of crawly things eating away at me like a Thanksgiving banquet. I had many terrorizing experiences while in the hospital that were so frightening at times I became physically sick to my stomach. My behavior often left me acting out, necessitating medications and restraint. Sometimes, I'd be in my room and afraid to leave because there were creatures sitting on my bed and coming through my window. I couldn't leave and I couldn't stay, so I'd "freak out" and smash my fist into a wall or window safety screen and curse out those faces. I wanted those ugly, loathsome disfigurations executed as I begged for relief. I did learn, however, from repeated psychotherapy sessions over many years, that the Voices and Sights are a part of me. If you push your thoughts and feeling down far enough and for long enough, symptoms will become volatile and will eventually erupt.

I used to dread every morning for what was going to transpire on what day. Every night when I went to bed, I was petrified that the foreboding Voices would leave me sleepless. If it weren't for the new medication, clozapine (with which I was a part of an experimental group), I would never have survived this continuously exhausting mental illness.

I felt as though I was weakening; the Voices were going to conquer. With the assistance of that new medication and the comfort and support from my psychiatrist and others, I have been able to make distances down my path to recovery.

I am now involved in working part time in a gift shop and part time as a counselor in a halfway house. I am currently working on a book about "my story" in a form of expansion of this article. I co-lead a class once a month with two nurses about schizophrenia; my part of the class is about managing the illness. I am a spokesperson for the Mental IIlness Foundation in New York City. The bottom line, I believe, is that I'm on my way to being a "cured" schizophrenic. With hope, motivation and courage, and proper care, there can be recovery for the mentally ill.




   Copyright 1996-2004. Schizophrenia.com. All Rights Reserved.