What It’s Like to Have Schizophrenia

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It’s not pretty, that’s for sure. For years I hid my terrifying symptoms from everyone until I nearly lost my mind — and my life.

Here are four things you’ve probably heard about people who have schizophrenia. Since I’ve struggled with the disease for almost my entire life, I’m more than qualified to tell you if they’re true or false.

1. They hear voices. Yep, I hear them. Those are real, at least to me.

2. They’re paranoid. True. For years I was pretty sure people were out to get me.

3. They commit violent crimes. No, that’s not a symptom. Those of us with schizophrenia tend to be secretive and avoid human contact. We’re more likely to hurt ourselves. Which brings me to:

4. They commit suicide. Unfortunately, true. About 40 percent of us try it, and 10 to 13 percent succeed. The voices I heard told me to kill myself, and I came pretty close to doing it — until I finally got help.

People are talking about mental-health issues these days, and that’s a good thing. But it’s so important to separate the myths from the realities. That’s why I want to tell my story.

Looking back, I think I had symptoms of schizophrenia as early as kindergarten. Remember those “stranger danger” films when you were little, where a man gets out of his car, offers you candy, and then kidnaps you? Well, I became terrified of those men and started having nightmares about them trying to capture me. When I’d get off the bus after school, I’d run home as fast as I could. If I saw a car coming, I’d hide in the bushes so the men couldn’t get me. And I figured out right away that I should keep this a secret and not tell my parents or friends. These were early versions of the delusions, paranoia, and extreme secrecy that became part of my pattern for years.

By Lisa Halpern, Ladies Home Journal

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