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Getting Schizophrenia and getting over it

by Sophie

Trying to look at the lead up to an illness is difficult. Before I had any symptoms, I was generally feeling like I couldn't cope, but I didn't know how to go about getting any help. I was in a bad relationship and it ended, but I dearly wanted something to take it's place.

I moved to Birmingham, to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Housing. I recognised that I wasn't really feeling together, but I just hoped that things would improve. I lived on my own in a bed-sit and generally became antagonistic towards others. I had little contact with my family, except by telephone, and I would often argue with my mother. There were few friends in my life, except two, who had their own problems and had a tendency to "wind me up" some way or another.

I had passed my first year exams and was working as a student placement for Warwick District Council. By about October of 1992, I believed that D.J.s on the radio were talking directly to me. When I told other people this they just laughed. But these D.J.s started to become very important to me, so I continued to believe it was happening, despite what other people were saying, (I never told any of my family about this). I just kept it as my secret, until eventually when I was not at work I would listen to the radio 24 hours a day.

I believed that a radio D.J. wanted a relationship with me, and throughout the course of our courtship (over the airwaves), the D.J. and myself would actually discover the meaning of life. Everything had a meaning and eventually I had a sort of vision: God, he spoke to me and said "No matter what happens, I will always love you". I felt special and chosen and at the same time I thought that other people were telepathic and could read my mind.

I was still working and started a two week placement at Newtown neighbourhood office. By now the world looked very different, with people being able to read my mind. Whenever names were said such as Lorraine or Pat, it had something to do with the state of my relationship with the radio D.J. Lorraine meant sorrow or floods of tears like rain, Pat meant that someone was patronising me, or I them, depending on the context. Jackie meant that I was being chucked or that I was chucking him. I used to ring up the radio station under different names, all of which had a hidden meaning, such as Dawn - meaning that something had just dawned on me. Maureen meant that I was marooned.

Whilst on this placement, (I was only there for two days), I began to get physical or tactile hallucinations. I thought that I had been shot in the head to remove a blood clot. Then, as I was working with one of my colleagues, I actually felt my brain crack open, then masses of blood came out of one of my ears, then a small trickle from the other. This for me meant that I was dead or dying in spirit, which I believed in more than the mortal body. At this point I started crying. My colleague went to put his hands on my arm, which he quickly removed as my arms were red hot. I asked to go home early, which was allowed.

That night, I thought that the devil was after me, I saw him come through one of the speakers of my stereo system. I was also probably hearing voices, but they were mixed in with the talk of the radio D.J.s. Suddenly, I became frustrated and ran out of the house into the middle of the road and started screaming. My neighbour came out and told me to come inside. He told me he had called the police and I started thumping him thinking he was the devil.

The police came and took me to the station, (Thornhill Road) and took off my jewellery, (which I had specifically chosen as good luck charms). My mind was racing and I stayed up all night hurling abuse at the police - especially the women. A police doctor came and went - I wouldn't talk to him. The next morning the police used my diaries to call someone I knew. She was a social worker and not someone I disliked. First of all she took me home. I thanked her and said that she could go, but because of my bizarre behaviour and the obviously disturbed state I was in, she asked me if I wanted to go to a hospital. I agreed to this, so she took me to All Saints.

Then I started to receive treatment. I remember thinking that I had been fighting to get somewhere throughout my psychosis and I would put everything into it, but now I would have to fight an illness. I was so tired and didn't feel I had much fight left in me, but I knew I had to keep going. I underwent drug treatment and cognitive therapy. Both helped considerably and I began to understand that what had happened was an illness. There were positive and negative symptoms, and that what I was experiencing wasn't just side-effects of the drugs, but also negative symptoms of an illness called schizophrenia.

The experiences of the illness left me socially inept, mainly because I couldn't think to speak and engage in interpersonal relationships. I tried very hard to overcome the symptoms of the illness, including lack of motivation, but I was also conscious not to do too much. I did voluntary work and finished off my course. But, I was generally feeling different and less capable than everyone else. I tended to sleep an awful lot, but always tried to keep going, although many times I felt like giving up. But, this time I had come so far away from my delusions that there seemed like no going back. Eventually, I found employment and I am currently working part-time.