I am thirty-six years old, but that doesn’t say much about me because age is just a number. I have three children, which says more about me, but still does not capture who I am. If you want me in a nutshell, you first must know I am schizophrenic, simply because it is the way my mind works, and a mind is perhaps the largest part of who we are.
I have not always been schizophrenic, but it is in my genes. My mother is bipolar and schizophrenic. I cannot remember a time when she was not on prescribed medication. I have concerns about her degenerating faculties, and I loathe to think what my own future will be like, because I am on similar drugs. It is worth the price, though, because psychosis is hell.
My condition did not rear its ugly head until my wife left me literally holding the baby (my third and youngest child was five months old, and the other two were under four). My mental state, which had always been precarious, simply could not process her betrayal, and what it meant for the future of our little family. She had been gone a fortnight when I first started experiencing unnatural thoughts. The word ‘One’ kept rolling around in my head like it meant something, and every time I thought ‘One’, I had the impression the thought was coming from outside my mind. I took to trying to decipher what ‘One’ might mean. I circled all the ones on the calendar, and held my breath every time the clock struck one. Nothing happened, of course, because it was just my mind.
My condition escalated quickly. Soon, I was believing I could read minds, and – most importantly to me at the time – communicate to other minds without boundaries. I tried using my mind to convince my wife to come back to me. I would talk to her for hours, but it always ended with rejection. Pretty soon, I became conscious of other voices – twisted, evil people who tried to hurt me with their faculties. I started to burn myself with cigarettes while mentally shielding out the pain, in an effort to convince the voices I was unafraid of what they might do to me.
I was lonely and hurting from my wife’s rejection, so I went looking for a friend. However, I lacked the social skills to make friends in the flesh, so I went looking for a friend in the world I had created in my mind. I formed an attachment to a woman I had known in high school, and began to court her telepathically. I would lay sprawled out on a mattress talking to her all day. I was delighted to know her. She was jovial and upbeat. I could not have asked for a better friend. Little did I know it was all just me.
The months turned into a couple of years, and still I remained lost in my head. I had estranged my friends and family, and my children were being cared for by my wife’s mother. I began to crave a relationship with my children, but it was near impossible to maintain any manner of relationship so long as I remained lost in my mind. Suicide became an option. I thought about ways in which I might end my life. My plans would change daily, but were rapidly turning from an ‘if’ into a ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘how’. If I had not had my children to live for, I am convinced I would not be alive today.
I did not go to the hospital to seek help for my mind. I had a sore hip, and the voices told me to go to the hospital because it was broken. I limped into the emergency room and told the nurse on duty that I was concerned my hip was broken. She asked me why I supposed it was broken, and I believe I said that God told me I had broken it. Whatever it is I said, it was sufficient cause for her to call a mental health nurse to see me. I was admitted into hospital, where I was gently asked if it were possible that my friends in my head were not real. I remember feeling quite indignant, but upon reflection, it made sense. It would take me the better part of four months to process and accept that I had a condition.
As my mental state sought an equilibrium, I went through a trough of depression. The drugs did not help, so they suggested a more radical treatment. I agreed. Twelve times, I was anesthetized and shocked with electricity. My short term memory was impaired, and I felt like the walking dead.
By the time I was discharged from hospital, I was a shell of my former self. I had been fun-loving and easy-going, but tears had washed from me the laughter. Still, I fought to be a father to my children, and I built on that foundation to be the man I am today.
I still strive against voices from time to time, and my mental state is still precarious, but I have three children who love me, and I am a responsible father. It is all I dared pray for for all those months I was in hospital.