Schizophrenia and stigma are often a combo package, but they don’t have to be. These voices channel grief, pain, humor, and hope to share their experiences.

Schizophrenia doesn’t discriminate. It affects people from all walks of life: musicians, teachers, doctors, students, and Nobel Prize winners. It reaches all socioeconomic groups, ethnicities, ages, and genders.

Below are the thoughtful musings of people who have lived with — or are still living with — schizophrenia. The quotes are as unique as the people who spoke (or wrote) them.

A few quotes reflect pain and fear. Others ooze humor and creativity. Some offer encouragement and advice to others who will walk this path — wisdom that could only come with years of experience.

Through these quotes, we get a glimpse into the determination, courage, and unique perspectives of people who have lived with schizophrenia, both past and present.

Schizophrenia is a complex and chronic mental health condition affecting about 20 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

When symptoms are active, schizophrenia can affect your:

  • thoughts
  • judgment
  • behaviors
  • ability to interpret reality

Over the years, there have been many misconceptions and myths surrounding schizophrenia, contributing to persistent stigma.

Many think it’s having a “split personality” or that people with schizophrenia are prone to violence. Previous theories suggest bad parenting or a “sick society” cause schizophrenia. None of these are true.

Schizophrenia occurs in all cultures and societies. While the exact cause is unknown, research suggests a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors can make a person more likely to develop it.

Elyn R. Saks

Elyn R. Saks is a professor, lawyer, psychiatrist, and mental health advocate who lives with schizophrenia. These quotes can be found in her autobiography, “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.”

“I needed to put two critical ideas together: that I could both be mentally ill and lead a rich and satisfying life.”

— Elyn R. Saks, “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness”

“If you are a person with mental illness, the challenge is to find the life that’s right for you. But in truth, isn’t that the challenge for all of us, mentally ill or not? My good fortune is not that I’ve recovered from mental illness. I have not, nor will I ever. My good fortune lies in having found my life.”

— Elyn R. Saks, “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness”

“Stigma against mental illness is a scourge with many faces, and the medical community wears a number of those faces.”

— Elyn R. Saks, “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness”

“If you are walking on a path thick with brambles and rocks, a path that abruptly twists and turns, it’s easy to get lost, or tired, or discouraged. You might be tempted to give up entirely. But if a kind and patient person comes along and takes your hand, saying, ‘I see you’re having a hard time — here, follow me, I’ll help you find your way,’ the path becomes manageable, the journey less frightening.”

— Elyn R. Saks, “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness”

Mark Vonnegut

Mark Vonnegut, son of Kurt Vonnegut, is a memoirist and pediatrician.

In 1971, Mark was hospitalized and received a schizophrenia diagnosis after experiencing psychosis. In 1980, the definition of schizophrenia was changed, and his diagnosis was switched to bipolar disorder — but his experiences with psychosis remain unchanged.

He wrote two memoirs: “The Eden Express: A Personal Account of Schizophrenia” and “Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So.”

“The voices weren’t much fun in the beginning. Part of it was simply my being uncomfortable about hearing voices no matter what they had to say, but the early voices were mostly bearers of bad news. Besides, they didn’t seem to like me much and there was no way I could talk back to them. Those were very one-sided conversations.”

— Mark Vonnegut, “The Eden Express: A Personal Account of Schizophrenia”

“I have a fuzzy recollection of walking up to some doctor-looking person and being totally absorbed by his gold tie clip. I suspected it was the button to end the world so I didn’t touch it. I’m pretty sure it was Dr. Dale. I don’t know who else would be so tasteless as to walk around a mental hospital wearing the button to end the world.”

— Mark Vonnegut, “The Eden Express: A Personal Account of Schizophrenia”

“As well as being one of the worst things that can happen to a human being, schizophrenia can also be one of the richest learning and humanizing experiences life offers.”

— Mark Vonnegut in his “Letter to Anita” at the end of “The Eden Express: A Personal Account of Schizophrenia”

“With mental illness, the trick is to not take your feelings so seriously; you’re zooming in and zooming away from things that go from being too important to being not important at all. So I was watching my thoughts in a detached way. I could zoom in or out to see how they looked without trying to change them.”

— Mark Vonnegut, “Just Like Someone With Mental Illness Only More So”

Daniel Schreber

Dr. Daniel Schreber was a German judge living with schizophrenia (at the time diagnosed as dementia praecox). He recorded his experiences in his book “Memoirs of My Nervous Illness,” published in 1902.

In these quotes, he talks about his experiences with psychosis.

“It was as if single nights had the duration of centuries, so within that time the most profound alterations in the whole of mankind, in the earth itself and the whole solar system could very well have taken place.”

— Daniel Schreber, “Memoirs of My Nervous Illness”

“When I sat on a camp stool in the garden in a black coat with a black flap hat I felt like a marble guest who had returned from times long past into a strange world.”

— Daniel Schreber, “Memoirs of My Nervous Illness”

John Forbes Nash, Jr.

John Nash is a mathematician and Nobel Prize winner for his contributions to the economic sciences. His life and experiences with schizophrenia were depicted in the award-winning movie, “A Beautiful Mind.”

In these quotes, he reflects on some early signs of schizophrenia and his perspectives on having a mental health condition.

“What truly is logic? Who decides reason?… It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found.”

— John Nash

“People are always selling the idea that people who have mental illness are suffering. But it’s really not so simple. I think mental illness or madness can be an escape also.”

— John Nash, PBS interview

“Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart.”

— John Nash

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson, who lives with schizoaffective disorder (symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder), was an original member of the Beach Boys. By the late 1960s, he quit touring for reasons related to mental health. By the 1990s, he was feeling well enough to begin recording again and occasionally going on tour.

In the quotes below, Brian Wilson shares his long-term experiences with schizophrenia and his thoughts on overcoming mental health stigma.

“Well, for the past 40 years I’ve had auditory hallucinations in my head, all day every day, and I can’t get them out. Every few minutes the voices say something derogatory to me, which discourages me a little bit, but I have to be strong enough to say to them, ‘Hey, would you quit stalking me?… Don’t talk to me — leave me alone!’ I have to say these types of things all day long. It’s like a fight.”

— Brian Wilson, interview with Ability Magazine

“I say, ‘We shall overcome.’ I use that all the time. We shall overcome all of the bad notions people have, the preconceived notions.”

— Brian Wilson, interview with Ability Magazine

Arnhild Lauveng

Arnhild Lauveng is a Norwegian psychologist who describes her experiences with schizophrenia in her memoir “A Road Back from Schizophrenia: A Memoir.”

“It started carefully and gradually, and I almost didn’t notice. It was like a nice summer day when the fog slowly creeps over the sky. First as a thin veil over the sun, then gradually more, but the sun is still shining, and not until it stops, when it suddenly gets cold and the birds have stopped chirping, do you realize what is happening.”

— Arnhild Lauveng, “A Road Back from Schizophrenia”

Lori Schiller

Lori Schiller, now Lori Jo Baach, describes her experiences with schizophrenia in her autobiography “The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness.”

“Even though the Voices were far more intense in the hospital than before, in some ways they were less frightening. When I was in high school and college, they had sneaked up on me, blasting out of the airwaves almost without warning. By now, they had become almost familiar. I hated them. I suffered from them. But they seemed almost a normal part of living. I knew them. I understood them and they understood me.”

— Lori Schiller, “The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness”

If you think you might have schizophrenia, it’s a good idea to reach out for help and discuss your symptoms with a healthcare professional you can trust. You can learn more about the treatment options available to you here.

If you’re wondering how to support someone you love who lives with schizophrenia, here’s a look into how you can be their ally.

If left untreated, schizophrenia symptoms can impact your day-to-day life in significant ways.

But this mental health condition doesn’t define a person — and it doesn’t impact everyone in the same way, either. Many people have lived with schizophrenia and led meaningful, fulfilling lives.