So you think you have Schizophrenia?

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by Ben Huot

You are now in the 4th Generation Subsection of the Writing Section

October 24, 2021

To get a diagnoses of Schizophrenia or any other mental illness you have to see a psychiatrist, not a psychologist. They need a doctorate in both medicine and psychology. This psychiatrist should have a speciality in mental illness and experience working with the mentally ill.

Generally not much will likely be done until you have a paranoid episode which is how most people find out they have Schizophrenia. Also many people are misdiagnosed because the diagnoses are often done by people without proper training, people over exaggerate what they feel to get money, and other people do not communicate to their provider well at all.

Schizophrenia is triggered by a stressful event, most commonly military service, but has a genetic component as well. Most families with members suffering with Schizophrenia have had one member with this condition each generation. You are most likely to get Schizophrenia in your 20s if you are male and 30s if you are female. It affects about 1% of the population worldwide.

Schizophrenia is a thought disorder not a mood disorder so instead of having amplified feelings your senses are amplified. The medicine basically sedates you as that is the most effective primary treatment for Schizophrenia. It feels like you are having adrenaline running through your system all the time and being on the medicine feels like you are also having something pushing you back down.

The medicines now are very effective at suppressing things like hearing voices, paranoia, and other delusions. They are not as effective in treating the other symptoms like depression, obsessive compulsive behavior, and anxiety. Other symptoms like exhaustion, weight gain, and increased chance of serious medical conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes are actually caused by the medicine. Newer medicines have fewer side effects but often are not effective with all patients.

People with Schizophrenia tend to have other characteristics like unique ways of sayings things, obsession with symbolism and religion, inappropriate emotional responses, lack of enjoyable experiences, and isolation from society. Some of the big things people often experience with Schizophrenia are poverty, being victims of crimes, and people not understanding how to work with you.

When you have your psychotic break, you will likely commit a petty crime. The police will then likely escort you to the police station, where you will be committed to the mental ward. This is usually until the admitting psychiatrist agrees you are no longer a threat to yourself or others. You will be in a locked down facility you cannot leave but you are also not in a jail. You will likely be with other mental patients and share a room with someone else.

You usually have to take an MRI scan before you can leave to rule our brain tumors. You will then be prescribed anti-psychotics to take with you when you leave. You will see a social worker who will try to help you but they likely will mix things up because they are overworked and not always fully qualified.

Once you get diagnosed with Schizophrenia you need to apply for all available social services as soon as possible and find a temporary housing situation like a group home. You will need to fill out many forms as quickly as possible as wait times for most services, money, and housing are backlogged and you often can wait 2-5 years for many programs.

The key to surveying on SSI (state financial assistance) and community services is to pay for as little as possible. You can survive on this much money if you can make use of all the services available and avoid reoccurring expenses. You will need to make use of buses, donated food, thrifts stores, dollar stores, discount grocery stores, government paid or assisted housing, government medical insurance, and county health and mental health / behavioral health services.

The best way to stay healthy is to keep taking your medicine, get daily exercise, and find a way to connect with the community like through church or volunteering. You should also try to get a part time job if you can, but be sure you do not make too much money or that will disqualify you for government financial aid. Your biggest problems will likely be surviving on little income, taking your medicine, and communicating with other people.

Losing your mind is not the end of the world. You can do well in life, but just adjust your expectations to what is realistic, so you don’t get discouraged. People expect very little of you when you are mentally ill. Survival is the only thing really required of you. See this as an advantage - you get to live a lower stress lifestyle (in fact this is necessary or the medicine will not be effective).

But you will likely have lots of time to devote to creating art or doing some sort of hobby. But reading or concentrating on anything is hard with Schizophrenia so don’t expect to be able to continue your education. You will likely meet other people to form friendships but it is hard to find people nowadays for anyone so be realistic about your romantic future. Don’t expect to be different than you are now in personality but do expect to have limitations because this is a serious illness.

Some of the things that can make it easier are family support, faith, friendships, taking your medicine regularly, regular exercise, getting a good nights sleep, and being as independent as you can.