The Misunderstanding of Paranoid Schizophrenia
By Stephanie Gerndt on May 03, 2014
Yes, I admit it; I have paranoid schizophrenia. I was diagnosed in my sophomore year of high school, but does it define me? Does this disease really shape who I am, or is it just another obstacle that I strive to get by? Well, you could say that it is an on-going struggle, but truthfully it was the hardest when it all first happened. See, I was a normal girl, with a normal life and a strong belief in God. I lived in a small town, living with a family that loved me, and no one in my family that had paranoid schizophrenia; so you can imagine what a shock it was to me when I started having dreams, and realized they actually started coming true. It was cool at first, but other times not so fun; like having a random dream that my grade would drop and then the next week it dropped; just like in my dream. But the scary stuff happened when I had a particularly bad nightmare, and it came true. What was so bad about it? It was a dream about someone’s death, before it happened. A week later it came true, just like it had happened in my dream. It sent me into a spiral of what ifs and questions, questioning God and wondering why I had had to have the dream. From there, things became worse. I started hearing things, voices and eventually seeing ghosts as well. I saw my family hurting as I felt myself change, and I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t control all these crazy hallucinations. Sometimes I wondered, if they are all hallucinations, then how does that explain the dreams?
So what was the one thing that got me through all this? Above all, it was faith, prayer, and my love for God, along with my family. When I was in this panicked, crazed state I didn’t know what was happening or why. Sometimes I felt like my family felt differently about me, even though I know this was not true. Despite everyone telling me how they were there for me, sending me cards and giving me hugs, I felt incredibly alone… Like no one could possibly understand; for how could they? They weren’t the ones who had been having dreams about the future, been hearing voices talking to them that weren’t really there, and they weren’t seeing ghosts in the corner of their eyes. So... how could they possibly understand? In my mind, they couldn’t… Not really, anyway. Soon I was put into a mental ward, and put on medicine. What you don’t know is the first medicine isn’t always the one that works. It’s more like a test run, to see if it works and if it doesn’t then one of two things can happen; increase the dose, or change the medicine. At times, I felt like a human guinea pig, especially in the beginning. It certainly didn’t help when I came home and happened to see television shows like CSI, which in almost every one of those crime shows the psycho killer has a mental disease. Guess which one it usually is? You got it; paranoid schizophrenia. Now, imagine how I felt, watching my once favorite shows as I saw killer after killer portrayed on the show, with almost all of them sharing my mental disease. I soon noticed that it was not only CSI, but Law and Order and other crime shows. It got tiring after a while, and now days it comes as no surprise when the killer, or suspect in general, has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Despite all that, I made it through.
The truth is, you can get better, and you can live a normal life. Most people I have spoke to would have never guessed I had this disease, and were genuinely surprised when I told them. Honestly, my love of God got me through it, and it was truthfully the roughest part of my life. At one point I saw a bright light and had a spiritual encounter, and after that my symptoms disappeared. I am still medicated, and now that I have been symptom free for years, with the occasional symptom here and there, I must now face reality. The reality that because I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia; I am stuck with it, and now I must remain on medication for the remainder of my life. I have heard medication can shorten your life, but whenever I ask my psychiatrist for side effects, he tells me that there are so many reported that he couldn’t list them all. When I ask those who are supposed to care for the mentally disabled if the medicine can shorten my life, and if so by how much, they answer with this…
“If you think about it, it’s actually lengthening your life; otherwise you might commit suicide or worse.”
So what is the truth about paranoid schizophrenia? We might never know, but if I can do one thing in my life it would be to help others better understand what all this is really about, and what I have been through. Maybe, just maybe, by sharing my experiences, my hope, my life… I can help people understand what paranoid schizophrenia really is. Maybe I’ll change the world, but if I can make at least one person understand it better, or make one misunderstood person reading this smile, then I will be happy. Will anyone listen? What do you think?