Monday, 7 December 2009

Is there any such thing as Schizophrenia?

I was thinking today about how to explain the incident I hinted at yesterday, to do with something that happened in hospital when I was nineteen. I decided that I can't go through all that here. It will have to be enough to say that it was assumed that I was accusing somebody of doing something when I wasn't intending to say that at all, and I put the record straight at the earliest opportunity, and luckily no harm was done.

I was also thinking that I should probably ask to look at details of the records kept when I was in hospital - but I haven't the energy for it. Whatever has been said about me is done now, and I have very little hope of changing any inaccuracies. The best I can do for myself is make sure I stay out of hospital henceforth.

I think a laissez faire attitude can be very useful in life, essential at times. In practical terms, when things go wrong you have to move on. You cannot afford to linger on thoughts of the past, or fret about things that can't be changed.

I am aware that my writing is rather obscure today. I am just really, really tired. It is the time of year when the children have to be all over the place several times a week for performances of this and that, and it takes its toll on all of us. It is wonderful in a lot of ways - I am so proud of them all, and I love watching the carol concerts and so on - but it is exhausting.

I had all sorts of scribbled notes about what I was going to write in this blog today, but I am going to shelve them for now. Luckily, nobody will complain - the beauty of blogging is the complete control that it affords the author.

What I have been considering today, is what a shame it is that I feel so hidebound by my diagnosis. It stops me doing things that I would otherwise enjoy - like helping more at the schools - for fear of what people would think of me being close to their kids if they knew about my schizophrenia.

As far as I know the diagnosis is not apparent to those who know me, and my kids are well balanced and properly behaved. I know that I pose no risk to anybody. But I do worry about what people would think even of letting their children come to play with mine after school if I revealed my mental health history. There would be a lot of nervous parents out there.

The psychiatrist who I saw after my last three children were born - who kept an eye on me for signs of disturbance - ended up being quite convinced of my normality, and even offered, completely of his own volition, to get my diagnosis reviewed, when I told him how it bothered me.

He spoke with 'The Team' and came back with a completely changed attitude - almost as if he thought that I had tried to pull the wool over his eyes and the others had luckily set him straight. He made it clear that the diagnosis was founded on very firm foundations and there was no question of changing it.

In some ways I don't mind - my life at the moment is generally satisfactory. But I do feel hidebound and typecast by the diagnosis - sometimes I wish that I had never accepted its validity. After all, I lead a very busy life, and I function well without medication, and have done so for many years.

So why should I accept that I 'am' something so awful sounding as 'Schizophrenic' just because that is what I have been told? By the same people who told me that the prognosis was very bad, that I would gradually deteriorate, that in other words I might as well give up all hope of a normal life. By the same people who told me that the medication I was on twelve years ago would in no way stop me conceiving, when the truth was so very different. Why did I ever trust these people?

There is no test for schizophrenia. It seems to me to be possible that I suffered three breakdowns because events in my childhood and early adult life led me to feel under such overwhelming pressure that I could no longer cope with reality, and so I retreated from that reality. And that by dint of a combination of luck and determination I am now in a place in my life where I am much more able to cope and so all memories and thoughts of those breakdowns can be consigned to the past and forgotten.

I can thus ignore the medics if I choose - I have no need of them for drugs or therapy, and I don't really need their permission to stand up and say, 'Hey, I am not schizophrenic just because you say I am'.

The reality is more complex though. I have been labelled, and for many years I have accepted that label. To shrug it off now I would need a lot of strength, and a pile of self-conviction.

I have always had a lot of faith in the medical profession - and felt a lot of awe for doctors in particular - but as I get older I come to realise that they are only humans as fallible as the rest of us.

I have read that nowadays psychiatrists are much less ready to diagnose mental illnesses, or to divulge diagnoses if they do make them. Largely because they realise what great margins for error there are, and because they are starting to see what implications these diagnoses have on individuals. Tell somebody they are a schizophrenic and watch them flounder - it certainly worked for me.

So if they are changing their attitudes to diagnosis now, I wonder why they are so loathe to say that they may have been wrong in the past? Could it possibly be professional pride? Is there a chance that the aim of some these psychiatrists is not solely to mend minds, but also to try to keep their patients in their proper places, to make themselves seem even loftier in comparison? Psychiatrists surely know even better than most how thin is the line we all tread. What it comes down to surely, is that the only person who is able to free me is me - if I am only willing to do so.

This really is heretical thought for me. Also, it is rather rambling. But it's fun to be a rebel for a change. Interesting how this blog keeps leading me in directions that I had no notion of exploring. It is quite a revelation.


  1. dementia in any form is a troubling issue that affects many all over the world. Many of the troubling mental problems can be linked to the early stages of development in your childhood or situations so tense that it causes a breakdown changing perception of reality. I am of the firm believe that these problems can be tackled without necessary the aide of drugs. We are still learning the functions of the brain and how is one's persona affected through the social aspects of his her life. I don't think as i may be wrong that enough research is being done to rid negative socialization by introducing positive influences that may lead an individual to a different ideal in life. I appreciate reading the blog although it was done a few years a go and hopefully others would read your testimony.

  2. Hiya
    The blog is still active, and I have now written a book about my experiences, 'Surviving Schizophrenia: A Memoir'. I am working on another book about recovery from serious mental illness. Thanks for your comment - I have come a long way since I wrote this post!
    Best wishes