Hello Sarah, thank you for agreeing to speak with us about your diagnosis with schizophrenia. Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Sarah and I’m 41 years old from the United Kingdom. North Wales to be exact. In a town known as the “Queen of Resorts”. I have two white German shepherd dogs. I live alone with them but do receive care from an agency three times a week and also from the community mental health team.
When did you start experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia? What were the symptoms that you were suffering from?
I suffer with schizophrenia and numerous other conditions although schizophrenia is possibly the longest standing condition I’ve had. I first started experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia that I can remember in 2003, although had troubling symptoms before that.
I had symptoms such as hearing voices, telepathic communications and beliefs of impossible things, loss of mind control, and hearing instructions from others such as the devil.
Did you ever experience catatonia?
Editor’s note: Catatonia refers to a set of symptoms that might develop in some patients with schizophrenia. It can include periods where the individual is unable to move normally and does not respond to instructions.
I never experienced Catatonia but do still suffer from extreme paranoia. Something my doctor referred to as paranoid ideation. Currently I am well, but I am still acutely paranoid, as it never goes away no matter how well I get. Just like other symptoms that are constantly there. Sometimes they’re hardly noticeable and I focus on knowing that they are not real. It’s when I cannot tell myself the symptoms are not real when I get placed into a mental health hospital.
What was your experience like being admitted to a mental health hospital? What behavior or incidents caused this to happen?
Being admitted to the psychiatric hospital feels like such a loss of liberty and control. It made me feel powerless. Trying to leave the hospital and being unwilling to check myself in were the common reasons for being admitted, but also for being a danger to myself.
Schizophrenia is known for the impact it has on ones ability to think and make decisions, as well as their emotions. Was this the case with you?
Yes, my thinking, emotions and behavior were all affected by this illness. I have been too scared to leave the house because I’ve thought the police were going to shoot me. Not undressing or taking showers because I believed there were cameras and/or listening devices etc. I have stripped naked in front of others because of thoughts in my mind telling me to do so. This illness can be terrifying and debilitating. I had at one time been so convinced that the hospital staff were trying to poison me that I would refuse my medications... the medical staff had to restrain me and sedate me.
How have the symptoms of your schizophrenia changed since your diagnosis?
In 2016 I was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia. I had been ill for 13 years and possibly more. Since receiving the diagnosis it has been a blessing as I’m now on the correct medication and it’s made my symptoms easy to manage. I’ve received the right care and that helps me live independently. When they first mentioned to me in hospital that I was a schizophrenic I was so upset and scared that I wouldn’t accept it. However, once I came to terms with it, I felt it explained a lot about my life. It gave me answers to lots of questions such as why do I feel like this and why is this happening etc.
How long did it take you to become diagnosed?
For many years I had doctors who didn’t really seem to take me seriously. Finally in the mental health hospital in 2016, I had an amazing doctor who I felt was determined to get to the bottom of my behavior. Being diagnosed was the best thing that happened to me.
What treatment are you currently on?
I’m currently on medications that work for me and don’t cause horrendous side effects that antipsychotic medications can cause. I’m able to drive, function and live a relatively normal life. However, I find that decision making can be an issue as I’ve ended up with a condition called executive dysfunction, which is a form of brain damage from schizophrenia.
What other conditions are you dealing with? Does medication ever conflict with others?
I do suffer with numerous other illnesses including diabetes, psoriatic arthritis and chronic obstructive sleep apnea. At times getting medication for minor illnesses can be awkward because of drug interactions. I’m currently on an antipsychotics and antidepressants and also a mood stabiliser medication for various aspects of my mental health.
Have you tried any alternative treatments, such as Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or Cognitive enhancement therapy (CET)?
I did try them and it wasn’t for me and I can’t say I benefited from it. Talk Therapy (aka psychotherapy) is also not really for me.
How has your condition impacted your relationships? Do you feel they understand what you are going through?
My parents don’t seem to want to have anything to do with me due to this illness but my brother and his family are very supportive. I have amazing friends, but when I was more vulnerable I had a lot of people take advantage of me financially, etc.
What advice would you give to others who are dealing with this disease?
I would advise anyone who has this illness to firstly always take their medication. Stopping it is the quickest and most guaranteed way to end up in the hospital. Also, if you’re not happy with how your meds are impacting the quality of your life then be sure to discuss this with your doctor. There are many different medications available, it was trial and error for me to find the right balance.
Members, please feel free to comment, ask questions, and thank this member for the testimonial.