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How I Found Myself in the Wreckage of Schizophrenia

My battle against voices and delusions.

By Leon MacfaydenPublished 27 days ago 6 min read
Image by Tunatura on iStock

I'd been mentally ill with PTSD for years, but this was different. My depression was getting worse, and I was feeling more and more angry for no specific reason. I was also thinking about suicide. My energy levels were zero, and I slept 15 hours daily.

I'd lost interest in everything. I did whatever I could to stay in my bedroom without talking to anybody outside of my immediate family.

It wasn't long after this that I heard a voice that would chatter inside my head every waking hour. The voice never said anything good. Instead, it told me to kill myself, suggested methods, and told me that no one loved me. It was like my worst school bully from years earlier had implanted himself inside my head.

Around this time, I started to feel an all-pervasive fear. Like my anger, I had no definitive target for my terror. I just "knew" someone or something was coming to get me; they could come at any time and in any form. I wasn't safe anywhere because I didn't know what I was running from.

At that moment of desperation, a magician appeared on a TV show. I thought I'd found my attacker.

---

The terrible timing of the TV magician.

The magician was famous for debunking paranormal beliefs and showing how magic tricks can achieve the same results. At the same time as I was hearing a voice and feeling under siege, he did a show of "mind reading". Now, my paranoia and fear had a focus. I believed this magician was stealing my thoughts and implanting new ones. I felt like he was mentally torturing me.

It was around this time that I had an appointment with a PTSD specialist to discuss my treatment. At the time of the appointment being booked, I hadn't shown any symptoms of mental illness other than PTSD. No one was expecting what was about to happen.

On the eve of my appointment, I wrote a long, rambling essay about the crimes of the TV magician. I wanted him arrested. I was angry that no one was taking me seriously, and I thought if I could get the psychiatrist to confirm that I wasn't mad, I'd have evidence for the police.

My mum and psychiatric nurse accompanied me to the meeting. When I was called, I stormed into the appointment room, slammed my papers on the floor, and said I wanted this man arrested.

You can imagine the shock of the psychiatrist. She thought we were going to talk about my flashbacks and trauma, but instead, she was confronted by psychotic rage.

She glared at my nurse and said, "You know we don't see people when they're at this level of psychosis." The nurse explained she hadn't seen me in a long time, and I wasn't like this before.

Somehow, the psychiatrist appeased me without agreeing that the TV magician needed to be arrested. She said she could see how much I believed it.

She wrote a report to my usual psychiatrist saying that I was displaying signs of schizophrenia. PTSD treatment couldn't even be considered until that was under control. She suggested a total revamp of my medication regime and sent me on my way.

---

More breakdowns.

Apart from thinking my girlfriend was forcing me to swallow pencils in my sleep, I gradually recovered from my delusions. But there's no cure for schizophrenia, and it wasn't long before I relapsed.

This time, I thought that the UK government was working with President Obama to kidnap the mentally ill and ship us to Siberia.

I stopped going out because I'd see undercover operatives everywhere. Even while on holiday in remote Scotland, I'd see a car, and that would be me hiding inside for the rest of the day. At one point, I tried to barricade my front door.

I gave up driving because the voice was telling me to crash the car. It was one thing to chatter about suicide all day, but I'd never endanger anyone else.

The combination of PTSD and schizophrenia destroyed me. I spent years doing nothing except staying inside and watching TV. I was numb from illness, medication, and trauma. I lost the best years of my life.

I felt like I was dead but without the luxury of oblivion.

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Recovery.

Eventually, after different medications and a brief spell in a mental hospital, I started to recover.

For most other mental illnesses, taking medications depends on each individual case. Not everyone with depression takes antidepressants. Not everyone with anxiety takes benzos. Schizophrenia is different. You'll get nowhere without antipsychotics. They're the only way to quiet the voices and the delusions. They bring you back from the brink and give you something to work with. Life doesn't magically feel good, but you feel alive again.

Once I responded well to medication, the real hard work began. First, I had to set realistic expectations. There's no cure for schizophrenia. The "me" that existed before this "nasty biological illness" (as a psychiatrist described it to me) was gone. I had to rebuild. Here's how I did it:

1. Acceptance.

When I first realized I had schizophrenia, I was devastated. It was ok when I was psychotic because I dismissed it as people not seeing the truth. As I got better, I had to get used to my diagnosis. This meant I had to take even more medications and look after myself.

2. Don't fall for the stigma.

When people think of schizophrenia, they think of axe murderers and unkempt people twitching in corners. But many fears about schizophrenia aren't based on reality. While I had to take my illness seriously, I never accepted my fate. I always believed I could recover despite a doctor telling me I was 100% disabled for life.

I keep my social circle small, and everyone around me sees past my illness.

3. Set goals.

When I was medically retired from my job as a police officer, I was without purpose. I felt lost, and depression set in. With my recovery from schizophrenia, I knew I needed new goals. So I began to write. Writing has changed my life. It's enabled me to help others in similar positions. Writing means my pain wasn't wasted. It also helps me organize my thoughts and stops me from getting preoccupied with what's happening in my head.

4. Plan for the bad times.

As I said before, there's no cure for schizophrenia. With the proper medication and self-care, I no longer live in fear. I don't expect any episodes as severe as the ones I've overcome. But if bad times happen, I have a safe network of people who love me. I have total time freedom so I can do as little or as much as I want every day. Most importantly, I've learned how to be kind to myself.

5. Physical health.

Before I got ill, I used to do karate, boxing, and weight training. I went hard and trained six days a week. I don't push myself that hard anymore. I work with weights three times a week for about 45 minutes each time. I'm stronger than ever at 43, and I never lose motivation to go to the gym because I'm not pushing myself to the brink.

6. Cut down on stress.

If I don't lead a calm life, I risk a massive relapse. So I embrace comfort, don't work too hard and don't get involved in pointless arguments. I'm much more likely to let things slide now and focus only on what matters. If something isn't working in my life, I cut it out to make way for new opportunities. Low stress and good sleep are crucial in keeping myself healthy.

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You're never too broken to change your life.

Sadly, many people with schizophrenia don't make it as far into recovery as I have. They lead sad and lonely lives, misunderstood by those around them. I count myself lucky every day to be where I am, with people who love and understand me.

That's not to say I've abandoned realism. I know I'm not cured and that it's only meds that are keeping me healthy. I may never have another episode, but I might. All I can do is control the abovementioned factors and live my best life. Worry and stress will work against me and bring about what I fear.

I want my life to show others you can improve and overcome the worst circumstances. Never give up hope because you never know when things will get better. All you have to do is stay in the fight.

schizophrenia

About the Creator

Leon Macfayden

From a police officer to a psychiatric ward and recovery.

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    Leon MacfaydenWritten by Leon Macfayden

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