Watercolour painting created by Libby Hyett, art work named Little Girl Lost

Should I come out as schizophrenic?

Eyes of Fire and Water, drawing on paper

Why not? Not many people read this blog. I was only diagnosed relatively recently, in the last year or two. To explain any weirdness I've become comfortable telling people I'm autistic, which I've also been diagnosed for. But I long to be heard. And I can pour my heart out and publish and know it's out there but I don't have to answer well-meant questions I don't have the answers for yet. I don't understand this illness. It isn't in my skillset to explain to people; I got a diagnosis and a prescription and instructions to make an appointment for twelve months' time.

So, this is my experience of suffering schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is an illness of disordered thoughts. The symptoms are theatrical but the illness lives invisibly in the mind and simmers like a river waiting to flood. A psychotic break is rare, but happens occasionally, like the Hawkesbury River bursting its banks after a period of heavy rainfall.

The psychotic break is like a bad flood. Powerful and dramatic. Spectators can't look away.

But the river's only doing what it naturally does: flows downhill, except there's just too much water to be contained in its ruts so it overspills on the path of least resistance and continues flowing downhill.

When a schizophrenic isn't psychotic, the style of thinking is still there, but it's sufficiently contained.

Schizophrenic thinking makes fast connections between things which may or may not be related. Everyone has delusions and hallucinations. Some of them are cultural. From the observer's perspective, a schizophrenic has delusions at the wrong time.

I have minimal hallucinations but appalling delusions. Persecutory, paranoid, grandiose delusions and I don't actually want to talk about them right now, because they're horrific. When I transition to a psychotic state, my brain is going off like a nightmare. The reality created is similar to dreaming, in that it's logically impossible but at the time is inescapable. My first massive psychosis was triggered by drug assault (I know) and episodes since have been triggered by sleep deprivation/stress. I would be so interested to have an MRI and find out what's actually happening in the brain structurally. I suspect it's very similar to lucid dreaming, except that to end the dream, instead of waking up, you need to go to sleep! I'm not volunteering myself for an MRI because during psychosis, I am not compliant with medical direction (the aforementioned delusions).

After my last psychotic episode I was prescribed antipsychotic meds and I haven't had a psychotic break since. Happy to keep it that way.

In my first job after Uni I was kicked in the head by a horse and probably brain damaged. The psychotic symptoms arrived post traumatic brain injury. I had two weeks of amnesia (I still can't recall these two weeks). Apparently I was a right shit when the careflight paramedics came to assist me. Makes me wonder what I believed was going on. In a psychotic episode I'm blindly terrified of the ambulance and hospital. Unlike the post-TBI, I can remember bits of my psychotic episodes, although only very tiny snatches of them. I probably have some false memories, created afterwards, from trying to remember, and from what others have told me.

I'm extraordinarily artistic and there's plenty of good things to be said for autism and I'm not sure I can come up with something good for schizophrenia. But I'll try. The schizophrenia comes from how my brain thinks. When I'm well I can do beautiful things. Art, music, writing. I just understand something special, and I can only express it metaphorically (via the creative languages of the arts). I want to give, give, give this beautiful thing to others.....show and share, because I'm so lucky to see the sunrise in my mind and I want to recreate it! Being as severely affected as I am by psychosis, it's surprising that I function in society so well. I think most of it is probably masking. Schizophrenia has a poor prognosis. Self-harm is a risk in psychosis. Social isolation affects me. Hopefully that will change. Poverty affects me. It's unfair that poverty makes my health worse. I was drugged by my housemates because I had moved to an extremely cheap sharehouse, because it was all I could afford on my disability support pension (the horse accident left me unable to work). If that hadn't happened, causing the river to reroute its course: undoubtedly my brain would not overflow into psychosis with such alacrity.

A psychotic episode is a pretty severe punishment for thinking a little oddly, and like all heavy-handed punishment the proverbial baby is thrown out with the bath water and I've learned to stifle my thinking when I notice warning signs. Minds are malleable. The broken thinking grew, and I believe it can be redirected.

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