Some years ago, when I was still experiencing psychotic symptoms—hearing voices and being prey to delusional thinking—I was depressed, because I believed that a certain man I had met while studying in another city was supposed to come and propose marriage to me despite evidence to the contrary. I did not understand why this expectation was not materializing.
On a day when I was struggling with these feelings, we were expected to go to my sister’s place to celebrate the birthdays of my nephew, brother-in-law, and my sister’s father-in-law. My mom came to pick me up at my place to go there. She was surprised afterward that I had behaved in a totally appropriate manner with these people and used that as an argument that psychosis was, according to her, actually a break in the individual’s soul: what we refer to as the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde phenomenon, which schizophrenia often is mistaken to be.
The term schizophrenia is a misnomer. It misrepresents the reality of the illness, so that the uninitiated believe that people afflicted with schizophrenia have two or more distinct personalities that are separate from each other, and that one of those personalities will do things of which the others are unaware, usually nasty stuff of which they themselves would disapprove if they knew. Actually, multiple personality disorder is a different mental illness now known as Dissociative Personality Disorder. This disorder has nothing to do with psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia.
To get back to my surprising behavior that day, like a lot of people, my mom seemed to assume that because delusions troubled me to the point of depression, I would have been unable to conceal this from outsiders. But even a troubled patient is able to figure out that if they don’t wish to answer unwanted questions, the best way to avoid them is to keep one’s thoughts private. Not to grasp this is to underestimate many patients, maybe especially those patients.
A lot of people assume that, because one suffers from a psychiatric disorder, one is also necessarily intellectually deficient; whereas, the co-occurrence of the two is no more compulsory than co-occurrence of diabetes and deafness or of blindness and heart disease. They may happen to one individual, but they do so with the same frequency that those physical problems do.
What may cause confusion and appear to be intellectual deficiency to outsiders is that very often schizophrenia or other forms of psychosis will manifest themselves while people are in their adolescence and still in school, but those kids cannot concentrate on their studies because they are experiencing hallucinations. They are hearing voices, and/or seeing people or things no one else sees, and/or feeling bizarre physical sensations, etc. One can experience hallucinations with all five senses. Of course, these perceptions will distract one from studying for an English exam or a Physics assignment, and eventually those kids fall behind and often drop out altogether. That is why this disease is known as youth’s greatest disabler.
I hope that reading this will help people to better understand what schizophrenia is and how it affects those who suffer from it. I am grateful that God gave me a family who stuck with me through the thick and the thin of it.