Here at The Student Room we're proud to have an amazingly dedicated and helpful mental health forum, where your questions about mental health can be answered and advice can be sought from other community members.
We're supporting Mental Health Awareness Day 2014, which is focusing on the condition of schizophrenia this year. In this article you'll find links to the latest discussions from the Mental Health forum, as well as eye-opening testimonials and thought-provoking poetry around schizophrenia which have been produced by TSR members. You'll also find contact details for the mental health foundation.
Please see the official page for World Mental Health Day 2014
Or click here for the facts.
My illness manifested in extreme paranoia that lead me to believe I needed to protect myself from people planning to attack me and / or kill me. I can’t really describe the fear that you feel when people who are close to you (as in physical proximity) are trying to kill you and there is nothing you can do about it. I had long periods where I would hear people talking about what I was doing at every point in the day. It got so bad I had to have the curtains closed at all times but even that didn’t change anything. I ended up believing that there were hidden cameras all around my house watching my every move and people were monitoring them at all times and commenting on what I was doing. With this combined with the thought that people were trying to harm / kill me I became a wreck.
This lasted for months. I remember being prescribed medication and hoping that it would help in some way but also not believing that there was anything wrong with me. After all everything that I believed was really happening. No matter what I did I couldn’t convince anyone that my experiences were real and that was a painful realisation. I felt like my family didn’t believe a word I said. I started to lose trust in them because of it.
Eventually things got so bad I ended up in hospital for a few weeks. This was another pretty awful experience. I was trapped with people I didn’t know and my paranoia was off the scale. I constantly thought that everyone in the hospital was talking about me behind my back. I was overjoyed when I finally got out after having my medication changed to Clozapine.
Over the next few months things began to slowly get better but I still had issues leaving the house. In the end I settled down into a rhythm of getting up and working on my computer most of the day.
Finally after a couple of years of relative (but lonely) calm I got a job in January 2013. I was petrified. Remember that I went from being a total recluse to a full time job in the space of 1 day. Things started off well but after a couple of months I ended up having a major relapse after thinking that everyone in the office I was working in was talking about me all the time. By the end of the year I had taken 3 months off sick and had 3 major relapses. If the job had gone on much longer I don’t think I could have coped. Thankfully it was just a yearlong contract.
I finished the job in January 2014 and now in October 2014 I am studying full-time at University. I’m in my third week and things seem to be going well. I’m not a very social person so haven’t really made any friends but I have not had any relapses or really bad times yet. So I’m quite confident that things will be OK this time around. I just hope that I can cope with the course.
I’m thankful that things are so much better now. Maybe I’ll be able to cope with schizophrenia from now on. At least the future isn’t quite so bleak. I’m sure there will be set backs again in the future but hopefully I’ll be able to cope with them better.
Fading thoughts of some forgotten epoch,
Crunching beneath my feet. Crunching. CRUNCHING.
The sound is stuck in my mind - kill yourself -
I glance around, no-one there. Not again.
Panicked wisps of air dart away from me,
Seeking refuge in the haunted shadows,
No solace, no safety, no end in sight,
Only oblivion - you're pathetic -
Startled strangers stare, I blink, no-one there.
Why here? Why now? Helplessly fumbling,
I grope in the dark for something certain,
Pulling out a plastic bottle I pour
Three small white soldiers into the abyss.
Things are back to normal. Perhaps.
Hello everyone! I’m TLG and I’ve been a regular on TSR for the last 6.5 years, taking me from the first year of my undergrad to my present position as a new PhD student!
As some of you might know, I suffer from a mental health condition called schizoaffective disorder, which affects an estimated 0.5% of the British population (or 1 in every 200 people). Schizoaffective disorder shares many symptoms with schizophrenia, as it is (put crudely) a cross between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Symptoms from schizophrenia that cross over into schizoaffective disorder include paranoia, delusions (e.g. thinking someone is trying to kill you, or that you are being spied on) and hallucinations (hearing auditory voices, experiencing tactile sensations or seeing something that is definitely not there). Symptoms from bipolar disorder that cross over into schizoaffective disorder include mood disorder: either depression (feelings of extreme lowness and apathy) or mania (spending money you don’t have, casual unprotected sex, and delusional behaviour, e.g. thinking you are king of the world or the next messiah). In this article, I am going to focus on the schizophrenic-type symptoms, as the theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is schizophrenia.
OK, so I’ve briefly described the symptoms. But what does this all mean and how does it affect me?
Symptoms – hearing voices
This is my main symptom. I have been hearing voices since I was five. No one quite knows how or why – but I have crystal-clear recollections of voices telling me to do horrible things to other people at this young age. Obviously aged 5, I didn’t know that anything was amiss and that this wasn’t normal. They were definitely not my own thoughts or me talking to myself though.
It was only when I went to university and the voices became more prominent and vicious, that I realised something wasn’t quite right. They started becoming more horrible and more persistent. I would hear them all day, every day without much respite. They were determined that I should die and soon, and did everything possible to achieve this end.
The fact is, to this very time of writing, I still hear lots of voices, even though I’m on very effective medication. Medication can’t get rid of my voices completely, as a lot of them are psychological; there’s also the fact that they’ve been going so long!
What kind of things do the voices say? I hear a wide range of voices, including:
· Self-harm/suicidal voices
· Self-critical voices
· Voices of people who have abused me
· Religious voices (both good and bad)
· Psychotic voices screaming at each other
· Auditory hallucinations heard with my ears, of creepy Parseltongue-esque voices speaking in a non-discernible language.
For a taster, my brain is a little bit like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vvU-Ajwbok
Paranoia and delusional thinking/behaviour
The voices got really bad at university. Being in a pressure-cooker environment was really difficult for me and my stress levels soared and got out of control. I began to see sleep as unnecessary and was convinced I didn’t need to sleep any more than four hours per night at absolute maximum. I thought I was completely invincible. At the same time, I also thought that my tutors were trying to kill me and that people in the library were spying on me. There was no real evidence to suggest this, even though I thought there was. I was convinced that college was plotting against me, which made me feel isolated. I can’t convey how scary it is when the very people you should be able to tell about the ‘plot’ against you, are in on it too L
Then there’s the fact that I thought I could do my Finals without revising. Not sure whether that was delusion or sheer pig-headedness. Or perhaps just unrealistic optimism!
I often decide I can be well without meds and stop taking them for months at a time, which also comes under delusional thinking.
People with schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia can suffer from disordered thoughts. For me, this means memory loss/blanks, saying things in a non-chronological order that is very different to understand, stopping mid-sentence, etc. It makes public speaking very difficult, or even just talking to friends difficult because I come across as very incoherent and rambly.
Being psychotic at uni – reaching out for help
By my third year, I realised I would need help if I were to ever finish my degree. I approached two welfare tutors and though they tried to help, in many ways they let me down. College reacted really OTT when they found out that I had been diagnosed with psychosis (Jan 2010). I had very little help from the university or college authorities but they pulled me out of all lectures and tutorials and let me stay anyway. That was kind of them but there was still a huge stigma around my illness.
Even though I tried to commit suicide during my Finals, no one tried to help me or send me back to a doctor. I am only here to be able to tell you this story thanks to the support of my friends (who made sure I came outside and ate) and family, and the chaplain at College, who was very supportive too and a lifeline. I left Oxford with a 2.2
At both my postgrad unis, there has been a lot more help for me. Applying for DSA was a huge stepping stone and very nervewracking but without the things it provided (notetakers, equipment and mental health mentor), I would not have been able to finish my Masters. My postgrad unis seem to have proper structures for dealing with mentally ill students and supporting them and their families, which is important. Not all universities have proper systems in place though, which is very disheartening.
I would encourage anyone suffering from schizophrenia or related conditions to apply for DSA and to get study skill support from your uni. There are all kinds of mentors and softwares that can help you get where you want to be.
Being psychotic at work – reaching out for help
Obviously just like anyone else, I wanted to work and have a regular income. Stepping into the workplace was scary though. Should I disclose my mental health problems and at what point? It’s something I’m still not quite sure of. I you have a mental health worker or a disability advisor anywhere, ask their opinion about what to do. I was told I should never disclose until I have an offer of working in writing, to avoid being discriminated against.
Some people have clearly turned me down for work or withdrawn a given job offer due to my being mentally ill. But there are lovely people out there too who WILL support you if you’re unwell.
How do schizophrenic-type symptoms affect my everyday life now?
As mentioned, I continue to hear voices most days. I also get very paranoid about people spying on me. Certain places I can’t go into or go into with difficulty, e.g. academic libraries and churches, due to having experienced traumatic psychotic experiences/episodes in such places.
Hopefully by discussing issues such as schizophrenia we can work to raise awareness and affect the improvement of treatment through getting our voices heard.
Have your say today.
Mental Health Awareness Foundation-Charity improving the lives of those with mental health problems