I’m not an expert on schizophrenia based on schooling. I do, however, consider myself an expert based on the experience of schizophrenia, because I have lived with the illness for nearly a quarter of a century.
I wrote a book: Pills, Poetry & Prose: Life with Schizophrenia that is a short book (approximately seventy pages) and contains essays and poetry about my life with a severe mental illness. I have fairly good recall of the times in my life when I have been psychotic and I try to take the reader on that journey with me.
In one essay I talk about the delusion I had of being a healer and during this delusion I baked hundreds of cakes, because I falsely believed that the food I made would heal all of the people who ate it. This essay is a story of a harmless delusion that I had and my neighbor’s response to it. Often times my episodes start out as a somewhat pleasant experience, but they always turn ugly and dangerous eventually.
In another essay in the book, I give my psychosis its own personality by naming it June. I do this to make it clear to the reader how different I am when I am experiencing psychosis as opposed to when I am stable. In this essay June is definitely the enemy even causing me to nearly lose my life to two suicide attempts in the same evening.
The book contains a few poems about my childhood, and about my first marriage. It also contains a few poems about my first stay in a psychiatric hospital and the stigma surrounding a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.
I like to think of the book as both tragic and triumphant. I was struck with this illness when life was just starting to unfold for me: I had graduated from college; I was successful in my career as a social worker; I had just started publishing poetry in national journals. My life was good. It would take a number of years, a number of treatments, a number of psychiatrists, and a number of suicide attempts, but my life is meaningful and rewarding now, and I have reclaimed some of what I originally lost. I am thankful to all the people on my journey that helped get me to this point. I am thankful to be alive.
Here is one poem from the book:
A Mass Grave
Where do the voices go
when I die?
Do they go to torture
some other victim of madness?
Does the man on the street
hear the same voices I do?
Is it all the same spirit,
these disembodied voices
controlling human beings?
I hope that when I die,
they die with me
so there will be less
in the minds