I was born three months premature, along with my twin sister. I guess you could say that I was a fighter from the start, weighing in at only 1 lb. 9 oz. I was put in an incubator and hooked up to a large number of machines and oxygen. I grew up in a few small towns in Maine. My parents divorced when I was only 6 years old. It was long and bitterly dragged out. I lived with my mother for most of my childhood. As a child I had always dreamed of becoming rich and famous, hitting it big someday, and in some respects I still cling to that childhood dream. In grade school I would dream the days away. I breezed through school without incident. While my sister (who is the same age) studied and prepped for the SATs for weeks on end, I was curious as to what my score would be if left alone. I scored markedly higher than her.
When I first mentioned that I thought I was schizophrenic to my father, he was in denial. He said that I was probably just imagining things and that it was all just because I was stressed with school and everything that was going on in my life. However, when I was officially diagnosed it seemed that he was ashamed. He didn’t want me to tell anybody. He has come around since then. My friends were very supportive through the whole thing. My whole experience with schizophrenia has taught me to be a stronger person and to advocate for myself.
Although signs were definitely emerging in my first year of college, I didn’t really realize what was happening to me and putting the pieces of the puzzle together and finally willing to admit it until my sophomore year, until the point where things started to come to a head. I started drinking and smoking marijuana as a form of self-medicating, because I knew that whenever I drank it was easier for me to socialize (always having been introverted and a bit of a loner, aside from my close relationship with my twin sister). Drinking and getting high made me feel better about myself and would falsely raise my self-esteem. Little did I know it would cause my inevitable downfall. It also lowered my inhibitions, as it does for many people. Above all it made my head quiet, it made the voices and other hallucinations disappear and remarkably it worked out okay for quite a while — in fact, for almost a good year and a half.
I first started noticing that things were different- probably the first visual hallucination I had was when I saw “Corky,” our family’s fawn-colored boxer, staring up at me. I remember her lying on the floor of my sister’s dorm room watching my every move for the longest time. I was okay with this at first. I was okay with the things that were different, as long as I could reason my way out of them. For example, I knew that the family dog really wasn’t there because I was at school and I knew she was at home, and so I knew that what I was “seeing” really wasn’t there at all.
I found that my hallucinations were quite prominent during class. At first they weren’t all that disturbing, they started as a flying sensation and a running commentary on anything and everything. The commentary was sometimes light-hearted. It was those that turned dark that was disturbing. Finally the commentary started to turn inward. I started to believe that no one liked me, that everyone hated me or was mad at me for some reason or another and that wherever I went people were always talking negatively about me and that they were all laughing at me. It made me withdraw from life altogether.
Then the voices started talking about me — how I was a “waste of a human being” and that “nobody liked me.” It was these hallucinations that really bothered me. Things really started going downhill. I didn’t want to be around anybody and started to withdraw from everything. I was hearing voices telling me awful things. They started to tell me to cut myself, and that I should kill myself because I was such a piece of shit. I became suicidal and extremely depressed. I withdrew from everything including simply discussing things with my family and friends. I stopped going to school in order to get my life in order, but even that took some time; more time than I had thought.
One day I was home alone. I was taking a shower. The voices wouldn’t stop telling me to cut myself with the razor in the tub and above that all I could hear was hallucinations of the phone ringing. I felt like I was losing my mind. I was going insane. The voices then turned even more violent. They told me to enter my parents’ room and shoot myself in the head. Knowing that my father and stepmother were former police, I went looking for a handgun with which to end my misery. Luckily, I am here today because I was unsuccessful in that attempt. I was also lucky that they came home when they did. I confessed the whole thing and was admitted to the psychiatric ward immediately for almost two weeks. This started a string of hospitalizations for schizophrenia.
The hospital turned out to be a place where I was guaranteed my safety and health. I was treated with a battery of antipsychotics, antidepressants and mood stabilizers, and four years later have finally found the right combination for the time being. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that medicine is not an exact science and more often then not, the right combination of treatments (being drugs, therapy, and the like) are different for everyone and must be found through trial and error.
I would like to note that I am lucky to have so many supportive people, as well as my doctors in my life. I am sure that without them, I would not be here today to tell my story. Finally the advice I would like to share with those starting their journey with a mental illness is this: Hang in there. Although it may take some time, things will get better.
–The Evil Twin