Resident schizophrenic, Michelle Hammer, is a different person when she first wakes up. Before taking her psychiatric medications, she isn’t as coherent, engaged, or energetic as we are accustomed to her being. For this episode – in a controlled environment – Michelle speaks with Gabe before taking her morning psychiatric medications so she can give the audience a small glimpse of how she feels when she starts each day.
Listen in to this episode of A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast now!
“I don’t think unmedicated Michelle is doing that bad!”
– Gabe Howard
Highlights From ‘Schizophrenic Before Medication’ Episode
[0:30] Recording first thing before Michelle (schizophrenic) has taken her psychiatric medicine.
[2:00] Michelle answers a list of questions from Gabe.
[8:00] Gabe explains to listeners how Michelle is behaving while off her medications.
[09:50] Show is paused and resumes after time has passed; Michelle has now taken her meds.
[12:00] Michelle answers more questions from Gabe – this time, medicated.
[15:00] How does Michelle feel about the ‘off med’ recordings?
[19:00] Michelle has confidence in her recovery, but still has feelings.
Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Speaking to a Schizophrenic Before and After Daily Medications’ Show
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Gabe: [00:00:19] You’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast! My name is Gabe Howard, I’m bipolar.
Michelle: [00:00:24] I am Michelle. I’m schizophrenic.
Gabe: [00:00:27] A lot of people have said to us, “Oh, you guys are too polished! You sound too good. You don’t have the symptoms of mental illness.” So what I did, was kicked Michelle out of bed earlier than normal. So she’s a bit sleep deprived.
Michelle: [00:00:40] A little bit.
Gabe: [00:00:41] And, she has not taken her psychiatric medications yet. So, this is sort of like, “Michelle in the wild,” and maybe she’ll be awesome. Maybe. Maybe this is the way we’ll record all episodes from here on out. Or maybe she’ll be like, I don’t know. Michelle, your thoughts?
Michelle: [00:01:01] What? I don’t even know what my thoughts are right now. Where, where’s your dog? How come your dog didn’t wake me up?
Gabe: [00:01:08] The dog was downstairs eating.
Michelle: [00:01:10] Good.
Gabe: [00:01:10] How do you feel right now?
Michelle: [00:01:12] I feel fine. I am so ready to podcast. Let’s have some coffee.
Gabe: [00:01:18] You have coffee. I’m not heartless. I wouldn’t give her her pills, but I did give her coffee. I mean, just not giving her coffee would be, like, one step too far.
Michelle: [00:01:30] I’m good. I’m good, I’m good, I’m good. Let’s go. Let’s… let’s…. let’s talk.
Gabe: [00:01:36] Ok. So I have a list of questions, just to sort of establish a baseline.
Michelle: [00:01:39] OK.
Gabe: [00:01:39] And there’s no right or wrong answers. They’re opinion questions. I just-
Michelle: [00:01:44] Opinion questions.
Gabe: [00:01:45] Yeah. I just want you to speak on them from from this vantage point of having just gotten up, having not taking your medication, and have only had, like, two sips of your coffee. Are you ready?
Michelle: [00:01:57] Yes.
Gabe: [00:01:57] Michelle, what is your favorite television show?
Michelle: [00:02:01] Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Gabe: [00:02:03] And why is Buffy the Vampire Slayer your favorite television show?
Michelle: [00:02:07] Because she kicks ass.
Gabe: [00:02:10] Now, I am not a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. So, I want you, in your own words, to convince me to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Michelle: [00:02:20] Ok. Imagine you’re in high school. Because you’re in high school, and you don’t even know how to fight people, and you don’t know how to get through high school, but you’re, like, “The Slayer.” And you have to save the world. So you have a whole other identity of saving the world and you’re saving the world as The Slayer. And you have friends, and you have a vampire boyfriend, and you’re, like, a bad ass bitch – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and killing vampires, and shooting rocket launchers, and people got flame throwers. And I’m saving the world from this, and I’m saving the world from that and saving the world from this and all through the whole thing, I look great. And even before she before she died, she did her hair.
Gabe: [00:03:09] I maybe should have picked a different question. Because I honestly can’t tell if that nonsense is from the show? Like, if you answered appropriately? Or if this is the ramblings of an unmedicated schizophrenic? So, maybe let’s shift gears and shift into something more reasonable.
Michelle: [00:03:26] More reasonable?
Gabe: [00:03:27] Yes. Like, Michelle, what is your relationship with your father?
Michelle: [00:03:33] Oh it’s good. We, we sometimes have lunch together. We or I go to Long Island City, and we go to Brooks, and we get lunch. And I always get the Caesar salad with iced coffee and he gets whatever. And we always have the same waitress. I went there for his birthday and I was with my friend and we had pig onesies on. And it was funny and that was for his birthday on Halloween.
Gabe: [00:04:00] Ok. So I’m glad added the Halloween part, because just wandering around in pig onesies is odd.
Michelle: [00:04:06] Yeah, I forgot that part at first. Yeah. His birthday is on Halloween. And he said that Blanche, she used to tell him that when she was there that she’s – that Blanche would say, “Now, Jeffrey, if you go around and knock on everybody’s door, they’re going to give you candy because it’s your birthday.”
Gabe: [00:04:22] Now Blanche probably loved Halloween. Because, free candy.
Michelle: [00:04:25] Yes, I’m sure she did. But she also had a giveaway candy.
Gabe: [00:04:28] What was Blanche’s giveaway candy?
Michelle: [00:04:29] That I do not know.
Gabe: [00:04:31] I guarantee it was whatever the most inexpensive candy at the store was. It was probably, like, butterscotches.
Michelle: [00:04:37] Who knows?
Gabe: [00:04:38] I can see Blanche giving out butterscotches. I can see Blanche liking butterscotches.
Michelle: [00:04:44] I don’t know. She had gold in her teeth. So, you know, she was at the dentist.
Gabe: [00:04:49] I didn’t say that Blanche didn’t get medical care. I said the Blanche was cheap.
Michelle: [00:04:52] I don’t know. But she had, you know, from when back in the day in the dentist. They filled your teeth with some gold.
Gabe: [00:05:00] Michelle, how old were you when you first were diagnosed with schizophrenia?
Michelle: [00:05:04] Twenty-two.
Gabe: [00:05:06] And how old are you now?
Michelle: [00:05:08] Thirty.
Gabe: [00:05:10] If you ever need proof that Michelle is not on her medication, it’s that she just listed her real age. Michelle, of all your family members, who’s your favorite?
Michelle: [00:05:23] I love my family equally.
Gabe: [00:05:25] That’s just a straight up lie. That one’s the lie.
Michelle: [00:05:33] I don’t know. I’m not picky. You can’t pick. It’s like choosing between children.
Gabe: [00:05:41] I can see you doing that, though. I can see Michelle Hammer, as a mother, being like, “I like you. I kind of like you. Fuck off.”
Michelle: [00:05:50] You know, how in “Half-Baked?” The guy quits in Half-Baked? He’s like, “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you. You’re OK. Fuck you.” You know, in that movie?
Gabe: [00:06:00] Okay, Michelle, I have some other baseline questions. All right, are you ready?
Michelle: [00:06:03] Okay.
Gabe: [00:06:03] Okay. No, breathe, breathe.
Michelle: [00:06:09] [unintelligible]
Gabe: [00:06:09] What is two plus two?
Michelle: [00:06:10] Four.
Gabe: [00:06:10] What is one hundred minus fifty?
Michelle: [00:06:13] Fifty.
Gabe: [00:06:15] What is one hundred, minus fifty, plus two, plus two?
Michelle: [00:06:22] Fifty-four.
Gabe: [00:06:23] Hey! I have no idea if that’s right or not, but it sounds good. It sounds good. Spell your name.
Michelle: [00:06:30] M-I-C-H-E-L-L_E.
Gabe: [00:06:33] Spell it backwards.
Michelle: [00:06:34] E-L-L-E-H-C-I-M.
Gabe: [00:06:39] I gotta tell you, I don’t think unmedicated Michelle is doing that bad.
Michelle: [00:06:43] Yeah, I’m a smart lady.
Gabe: [00:06:46] I mean, you haven’t fallen off the chair yet.
Michelle: [00:06:50] I know. I have balance.
Gabe: [00:06:51] Do you? Because you are rocking back and forth an awful lot.
Michelle: [00:06:57] No, I’m not. Am I?
Gabe: [00:07:00] Yeah. You hit the microphone like three times. So in the mornings, how long does it usually take you to get going?
Michelle: [00:07:11] A while. A lot. Because I hit snooze on my alarm, like, five times.
Gabe: [00:07:16] From the time you get out of bed, how long did it take you to get going?
Michelle: [00:07:20] Like, half an hour. An hour.
Gabe: [00:07:23] Do you take a shower every morning?
Michelle: [00:07:24] No.
Gabe: [00:07:25] Do you take a shower at night?
Michelle: [00:07:26] Not every night.
Gabe: [00:07:28] Do you take a shower once a day.
Michelle: [00:07:30] Yes.
Gabe: [00:07:31] No, you don’t.
Michelle: [00:07:31] I don’t.
Gabe: [00:07:31] You seem to have enough faculties to lie. You look like you’re waking up.
Michelle: [00:07:38] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:07:40] What could you not accomplish right now? Because in a second, we’re gonna pause the recording and you are going to take your pills. We are going to wait an hour, and then we’re gonna talk to you. We’re gonna see what happens from there. So what are some final unmedicated words? Because you’re not doing so bad. And I think one of the reasons is, sincerely, because you took your meds yesterday. I mean, it takes more than one day for them to come out of your system.
Michelle: [00:08:03] Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Gabe: [00:08:03] So I don’t want people to listen to the show and be like, “Oh my God! She was just fine! She could spell her name backwards without the meds. Schizophrenia meds are bullshit!” That’s not the lesson. But clearly, you are not as polished and awake. I wish we had a camera on this, because you have a lot of physical tics that you’re probably unaware of.
Michelle: [00:08:20] I must be unaware, because I didn’t know I had any physical tics.
Gabe: [00:08:24] I mean you’re kind of… I wouldn’t say that you’re spastic. That’s not the right word, but you are moving a lot more. You’re laughing a lot more. You haven’t put down your little vape-y pen the entire time. So I’m pretty sure that you have whatever disease vape pens give you. Tat was not that funny. You should not be laughing this hard.
Michelle: [00:08:44] [Laughter] You’re funny.
Gabe: [00:08:46] What do you think of your co-host?
Michelle: [00:08:48] You’re a lovely, lovely man. And you’re a ginger. You have a fire crotch.
Gabe: [00:08:55] Say something nice about me.
Michelle: [00:08:57] I don’t know you’re looking for a here. I think that you’re looking for an answer.
Gabe: [00:09:02] That’s why I asked a question. Dumb ass.
Michelle: [00:09:07] [Laughter]
Gabe: [00:09:07] All right. Everybody, we are going to pause this. We’re going to have Michelle take her pills and we’re going to wait about an hour. And while we’re doing that, you can hear from our sponsor. We’ll be right back, after these messages and medicating Michelle.
Announcer 2: [00:09:19] This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counseling. All counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face-to-face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.
Gabe: [00:09:50] We are back! Talking to a newly awake, alert, and professional, Michelle Hammer. Michelle, how do you feel?
Michelle: [00:09:59] I feel way more alert right now and I know we just had a very long conversation, and I listened back to it, and I don’t remember you asking me any of those questions. But I heard that you did, and I did not answer those questions in the right way, I don’t think.
Gabe: [00:10:15] So, the first question I’m going to ask you to just sort of get a baseline is can you, now that you are awake, alert, and have full control of your faculties, explain Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a way that doesn’t make it sound terrible.
Michelle: [00:10:30] Ok, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is about a high school drama and it’s bringing about the horrors in high school. But with zombies and vampires and everything like that all coming alive and you actually have to fight the demons. It’s not about fighting the demons that are actually in high school but physically fighting the demons that are in high school.
Gabe: [00:10:52] So you’re saying it’s like an analogy or an allegory?
Michelle: [00:10:55] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:10:56] And it’s designed for children.
Michelle: [00:10:57] Not children, for teens.
Gabe: [00:11:00] Okay, but you’re 30.
Michelle: [00:11:02] Yeah, but I started watching it when I was much younger.
Gabe: [00:11:04] Much younger?
Michelle: [00:11:06] Much. It started in 1997, Gabe.
Gabe: [00:11:09] Wow, I was out of high school then.
Michelle: [00:11:11] I was 9.
Gabe: [00:11:12] What were you doing in 1997?
Michelle: [00:11:13] I was probably…I think I was eight years old. Eight or nine, yeah, eight or nine.
Gabe: [00:11:18] Wow, your parents were letting you watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer at eight years old?
Michelle: [00:11:23] My dad was watching it with me.
Gabe: [00:11:25] Wow! Now that’s a good dad. Now, you said some really complimentary things about your father.
Michelle: [00:11:30] He’s a good guy.
Gabe: [00:11:32] I mean, I asked you about him and you were basically like, “Hey he buys me food.” Do you want to, maybe, add to that? I mean because, when I asked you about your dad before the medication your entire answer really revolved around it. I know we’re going to edit this down, but you talked for, like, twenty-five minutes about how he took you to a restaurant and bought you a Caesar salad.
Michelle: [00:11:58] Every year. I meet my father on his birthday, which is Halloween, and I show up in a Halloween costume and it’s just really funny. This year I was a pig. Last year I was a wizard and we walk into the restaurant he just goes, “Oh my God what are you doing!?”
Gabe: [00:12:17] So your dad does this thing where he’s like, “Oh, I hate it! I hate it!” But he really loves it.
Michelle: [00:12:21] Yes.
Gabe: [00:12:22] I did think that it was funny that I couldn’t get you off of it. I mean, you just desperately wanted to tell me. You didn’t mention anything about his birthday beforehand. It took you a while to mention that it was Halloween, and you really just wanted to focus on the fact that you got food. I mean, that that was really the crux of like every nice thing you had to say about your father. You were dressed like a pig with a friend. “Oh yeah, by the way it was Halloween.” Obviously the audience just heard it, but there’s other things about your dad now that you’re alert. Say some nice things about your pop.
Michelle: [00:12:56] He’s good. He’s a smart guy. He does my taxes.
Gabe: [00:13:02] That’s it? The man who raised you is “good, a smart guy.” And he does your taxes?
Michelle: [00:13:08] He’s funny. We watch Star Trek together sometimes. He likes Star Trek. We’ve watched the Ten Commandments together. We watch some TV. Yeah. I mean, he tells me stories.
Gabe: [00:13:22] About what?
Michelle: [00:13:23] Back in the day
Gabe: [00:13:26] [Laughter]
Michelle: [00:13:26] Back in the day, you see, my father didn’t have a lot of money. So on his way home from school he would stop by the hotdog station and borrow the salt. And put the salt on his hand and lick the salt all the way home.
Gabe: [00:13:40] How old was your dad when this was going on?
Michelle: [00:13:41] Little.
Gabe: [00:13:42] Okay. Good I was afraid you were gonna say, like, 40.
Michelle: [00:13:45] No. Little.
Gabe: [00:13:45] He was like 40. He had kids at home. So it was his only joy. I can see that because one of those kids would be you.
Michelle: [00:13:53] Did I ever tell you when my parents got married my dad weighed one hundred and twenty five pounds?
Gabe: [00:13:57] How much does he weigh now?
Michelle: [00:13:58] Way more than that.
Gabe: [00:14:00] Wow. So now that you’re alert and awake, you’ve just decided to call your dad fat on a podcast?
Michelle: [00:14:05] I’m not calling him fat. I’m just saying he was, like, a really skinny, skinny dude He was skinnier than me.
Gabe: [00:14:10] That’s impossible. Skinnier than you is like a broom.
Michelle: [00:14:15] No. I have tried on some of his shirts from back in the day when I was little and that’s when they fit me.
Gabe: [00:14:20] Wait, they fit you when you were little?
Michelle: [00:14:23] Yeah. He was really skinny. He was a tiny dude. He’s 5’6″.
Gabe: [00:14:27] So now they don’t fit you anymore?
Michelle: [00:14:27] No. Because I’m not that skinny anymore.
Gabe: [00:14:31] You weigh a buck twenty.
Michelle: [00:14:31] No, I really weight more than that, Buddy.
Gabe: [00:14:34] Way more? What a buck thirty?
Michelle: [00:14:35] Yes.
Gabe: [00:14:36] I have a scale. We can solve this problem right now.
Michelle: [00:14:40] We don’t need to go on a scale right now, Gabe. That’s very triggering, you see. Girls don’t like scales. Scales are the devil. Are you going to take two pounds off for clothing?
Gabe: [00:14:50] You basically just said, “Listen, we do not need to bring science into this conversation.”
Michelle: [00:14:54] We don’t. No science. No science in here. We don’t need science. What is science?
Gabe: [00:15:00] So, Michelle, what do you want people to take away from this?
Michelle: [00:15:03] I think what I want people to take away is just, you know, in the morning things move slower. I have to take my pills to really get ready. So if I’m not answering emails in the morning it’s ’cause I’m not ready to answer e-mail. I’m not ready to get everything done. Things take time. That was always a big struggle with work, because I was always running late, because I do sleep late. So I would take my medicine, go to the subway, get on the train, get to work, get in, and it still wasn’t kicked in yet. So I would kind of really be out of it in the morning and not really what was going on. Not really knowing what’s going on, but eventually it would kick in. But the morning was always like, “I don’t know what’s happening right now! But I’m sitting behind a desk. I’m getting e-mails. Let me try to focus on what’s happening and then maybe I can work.” But it would take a while before I like was able to work and I actually knew what was happening.
Gabe: [00:15:51] So a coping skill of yours is to get up, take your pills, let some time pass, and then start your day?
Michelle: [00:15:59] That’s the plan. But sometimes the plan gets faltered by me not waking up on time. But I always try to take the pills, then leave. And then hopefully wherever I’m going, they start kicking in. That’s the ideal plan. It doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s the ideal plan.
Gabe: [00:16:17] I like what you said there. Because you said, “I have a plan. I don’t always meet it. But I always have the plan, and I’m getting better every day.” I mean, I said it much more succinctly, but that’s essentially what you’re saying.
Michelle: [00:16:28] Yeah. The idea is to make forward progress, but not perfection. And also, I should add, that if I did not take my nighttime pill last night, I would have gone on so many tangents of so much nonsense. And this podcast would have just been out of this world. So that’s also a factor of why I was more tame before. Because, if I did not take that nighttime pill I could not even imagine what I would have said and I kind of almost don’t really want to. Before I listened to what we spoke about, I had no idea of what we just spoke about.
Gabe: [00:17:02] I think you’ve given us an idea for a future podcast! Michelle, go off your meds for a week!
Michelle: [00:17:09] I don’t think that’s a good idea.
Gabe: [00:17:10] No, that is a terrible idea. Please don’t do this, obviously. Thank you for delaying your pills by a half an hour for the sake of art and podcasting. I hope that the listeners were able to take some semblance of knowledge away from it, or at least get a glimpse into your life. Please do not be so cavalier with your medications at home. You probably don’t have a Gabe following you around. So thank you, Michelle. But remember, don’t mess with your meds.
Michelle: [00:17:39] Don’t. Don’t mess with your meds. Don’t just make up your own dosages, don’t try to go lower, down try to go higher. Again, just talk to your doctor. Figure out what works and don’t think you know more than your doctor. That’s never a good idea.
Gabe: [00:17:54] Thank you, everybody, for tuning in to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you did not get a “Define Normal” shirt for Christmas, it is not too late. We’re still selling them over on store.PsychCentral.com. Go over there, grab one, help support the show. As always, please comment everywhere. If you go to PsychCentral.com/BSP you will see the comments section. Leave one there. Share the podcast. Tell everybody you know. Help us become the biggest podcast in the world. We’re coming for you, Joe Rogan. We will see everybody next week.
Michelle: [00:18:29] Coffee!!
[00:18:29] You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you love this episode, don’t keep it to yourself. Head over to iTunes, or your preferred podcast app, to subscribe, rate, and review. To work with Gabe go to GabeHoward.com. To work with Michelle, go to Schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups, head over to PsychCentral.com. The show’s official Web site is PsychCentral.com/BSP. You can e-mail us at [email protected]. Thank you for listening, and share widely.
Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts
GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.
MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.