Where My Schizophrenics At

***Trigger Warning: Graphic writing on general mental illness, suicide, and paranoid schizophrenia.

I know one schizophrenic. He is my uncle and he makes me laugh a lot. But, when I ask the question, where my schizophrenics at, he doesn’t really count, because if you are schizophrenic I’m willing to bet someone else in your family is, too. There was one other in my family, but she died in a mental institution before I was born, with foil wrapped around her head. I have yet to do some shit like that, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

I would like to talk to you about schizophrenia for a second.

Imagine being in a restaurant ordering a burger to go and you have all the voices of the diners polluting the air above your head, along with a voice next to your ear demanding you kill yourself. And the guy asks you three times how you want your burger cooked and you keep saying, What? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you, because, really, how could you possibly understand what he is saying? Try it sometime. Try it, and he will say slowly, how. do. you. want. your. burger. cooked. like your brain is developmentally disabled or like you are a pothead.

You are not a pothead. You have schizophrenia.

Have you ever been with a group of friends who are drunk and fucking around and talking shit to each other and you have that one friend who just says some off the wall shit that doesn’t even make sense — you’re not even sure if it is English — and everyone just gets quiet and awkward and wonders why they keep inviting him out? That friend of yours is probably schizophrenic. Why? Because reality. If reality doesn’t make sense, how can our words? Again, try to carry on a conversation with voices as loud as your radio in your car will go up screaming at you that you are a horrible person and you are ugly and you are worthless and you should just slit your wrists right fucking now, and let me know how that works out for you.

Am I begging for your sympathy? No, I am not. Treat me like an idiot if you want, make fun of me because the things I say in a social situation make zero sense if you want; the truth is, I really don’t give a fuck. It hurts sometimes because I’m trying my best to be normal on a daily, to be accepted, but whatever. I accepted a long time ago that I would never be accepted and these days, I just don’t care because I have lost so many people due to my illness and I just can’t spend the emotional energy anymore.

What I do care about, however, is the fact that I don’t know any schizophrenics. I know so many people with anxiety and with ADHD and with bipolar disorder and even with autism, but I don’t know any schizophrenics and I want to know where you motherfuckers are at. There are so many advocates out there — which is wonderful — but the majority of these advocates are promoting bipolar disorder and autism and I would just like to know, where are the schizophrenics?

I realize a lot of them are dead. My first instinct is to BACKSPACE but it’s true. 40% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia in America attempt to commit suicide. That’s 1.4 million people in this country alone. That leaves 2.1 of you around these parts and I know at least a few of you have Twitter.

This is why I wrote Paper Souls. Because I couldn’t find any books that told the realistic story of schizophrenia. The realistic story is that, probably, people are scared. Why do faces go cold when they ask me what Paper Souls is about and I tell them? Probably because the only thing anyone knows about schizophrenia is the mentally ill shooting up malls and schools. They don’t see me, running operations as VP of a non-profit organization, writing books, helping authors, editing, all when I’m not working at my full time job. No one sees that when they hear schizophrenia.

But if you are scared, how do you think we feel? This is the thing. People are not advocating for schizophrenia because we are scared as fuck.

We are scared that you are going to lock us up for breathing. Fire us from our jobs. Throw us in an institution the second we speak up.

Well, in the words of Sarah Fader: schizophrenia needs a voice — pun intended.

You can come out now. I got your back.

jstar5An American novelist, book critic, and magazine editor from Burbank, California, Allie Burke writes books she can’t find in the bookstore. Having been recognized as writing a “kickass book that defies the genre it’s in”, Allie writes with a prose that has been labeled poetic and ethereal.

Her life is a beautiful disaster, flowered with the harrowing existence of inherited eccentricity, a murderous family history, a faithful literature addiction, and the intricate darkness of true love. These are the enchanting experiences that inspire Allie’s fairytales.

From some coffee shop in Los Angeles, she is working on her next novel.
Visit Allie at http://wordsbyallieburke.com

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66 thoughts on “Where My Schizophrenics At”

  1. Goddamn, you are definitely one of the best writers in my WordPress feed. My wife researches depression and suicide, and she’s branded me as “psychologically boring” as far as her research goes, so I feel I definitely will never be able to fully comprehend where you’re coming from, but there’s one thing I’m certain of… if I ever encounter you, or someone else I know to be schizophrenic, after reading this post just now, I will not confuse their disorder with lack of intelligence, sanity, or focus. I’ll try to accommodate them as best I can and will view them as a person, and perhaps a friend, and not an annoyance. Thanks for the heads up, and the powerful writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a wonderfully amazing compliment, Scott. Thank you so much. I appreciate you keeping an open mind on the subject. This is exactly why advocacies exist and your feedback tells me it is all worth something. Thank you.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s true there are more individuals out there openly admitting that they have anxiety, ADHD, depression, bi-polar and so on. Though not many openly admit or come out stating that they’re schizophrenic. Even still, admitting to any sort of mental illness is still not taken very well in our society and our treatment of mental health should be given more priority minus the stigma. I didn’t know that 40% of schizophrenic’s die by suicide. I’ve researched that approximately 90% of deaths by suicide were those inflicted with depression or some type of mental illness. http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-recognizing-signs-of-suicide

    I find this post brave and although I am not schizophrenic, I can understand what it’s like to feel different. Dealing with major depression most of my life I have always felt that it was a real struggle to achieve normalcy where it seemed the world would breeze by with such ease. Sometimes it feels like you’re running and you’re going in slow motion while the rest of the world is at the finish line. But, I found that self acceptance is crucial and so is surrounding yourself with non-judgmental people that love you no matter what. I just actually wrote about something relating to labels and feel it fits here. That you are a three-dimensional individual, you’re much more than a diagnosis and I praise your honesty.

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    1. Thank you so much. 40% of schizophrenics attempt suicide, but I realize not all are “successful”.

      I appreciate your feedback and openness more than you know. Thank you.

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  3. Let’s see. I know. One. Two. Three. Four. Yes. Four people diagnosed with schizophrenia. Two are relatives — still being awesome and kicking life in the ass. Other two are friends. Also kicking ass. It is definitely imperative that more people blog about it. I hope people take this post and rise to the occasion.

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  4. Another amazing post, Allie. I have a second cousin who’s schizophrenic, and his life is not great. He has attempted suicide at least once. I wish I knew how to get in touch with him–and if I can figure that out, I’ll send him a link to your blog–because I think he’d really appreciate the work you do. In the meantime, you rock for putting all this out there and helping so many people who can’t voice what they’re dealing with.

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    1. Thank you for your wonderful comment and for sharing, Mary. If you do get a hold of him, I would love the opportunity to speak with him if he’d like.

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  5. I’m unsure what to say. I’m not schizophrenic, and I don’t know if anyone I know is. I’ve taken a few psychology classes and have a friend whose bipolar, but through those classes I did wonder, “Do I know someone with schizophrenia and don’t realize it? Maybe there are people in my classes with this mental illness, yet they keep themselves hidden.” But despite not having those particular mental illnesses myself (I do have anxiety and suspect I have dystemia), I do wish people who don’t have these illnesses were better educated. I hate when someone throws around mental illness like it’s no big deal or like it’s some thing to be terrified of and run away from. And the stigmas present in our society are what make me think that that might be why I feel I’ve never met someone with schizophrenia. The stigmas need to be gone. And what a lot of people don’t understand too is that violence against those with mental illnesses FAR outweighs violence from people with the illnesses.

    Those with schizophrenia are good at hiding and understandably so. I just want you to know there are those of us who hear you and are being understanding of you. I know that number is small, but we’re out here. And I hope you can meet others who have schizophrenia, those who can genuinely understand what you’re going through and offer acceptance.

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  6. Incredibly moving post, Allie. It is posts like this one that open the doors to dialogue and education. Thank you.

    After my aunt died and left four children under ten, my cousin who was nine at the time, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He has suffered tremendously in life. I hear you. Ellie

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Ellie. I’m so sorry that your cousin has suffered so greatly. I hope he is feeling well enough to live his life at this point.

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  7. Thank you for bringing an honest look of what it is like for someone with schizophrenia. My son, who was never officially diagnosed, (he took his life before we were able to get him help), I believe was developing schizophrenia. He died just six days after his seventeenth birthday. He was precious to his family and a valuable and loved human being. We honor our son’s memory by giving mental health presentations to high school students students about mental illness. Our society does not talk about mental illness and as a result there is a lot of ignorance and fear surrounding the subject. Our non-profit, The Jordan Binion Project, wants to end the stigma associated with mental illness and we want to open up a dialog with our younger generation about mental illness. Young adults need to know the symptoms of mental illness and know that it is a medical illness, and not their fault. One of the best ways to end the stigma is to start talking. The more you are willing to share your personal experience and put a “face” on mental illness the more people can relate and the more you realize that you are not alone. Thank you for sharing your story in such an eloquent way.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Deborah. I’m so sorry for your loss. I think what you are doing with your NPO is amazing. It is prevalent that our society becomes more empathetic about the subject, especially in young adults. Thank you for reading and being open about your son.

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  8. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this. I will definitely be looking into your book. There are far too few people who write serious literature dealing with characters with mental illness, and far too many people unafraid to read them. Kudos to you!

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  9. I want to thank you for this blog. I will be following. You are right that much of the national conversation is about autism spectrums and Bipolar disorder, yet very little on Schizophrenia. I have a sibling and other family members that are schizophrenics. I can’t begin to tell how many times our mother has to clarify to friends and others that my sibling is not developmentally delayed but a highly intelligent, witty and humorous individual. Though college-educated, my mother, when talking to family friends overseas back in her birthplace, has to use outmoded such as the ‘m’ word or the ‘c’ word, to get the point across to those friends don’t know enough. It’s all very sad, but as an educator, and especially working with the special education population, I can do my small part and educating others. Thank you again and will be reading more of you.

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    1. Thank you so much. Once, I was with friends, and a mutual friend of mine and my ex’s used the word schizo to refer to someone who was a meth addict. My ex — bless his heart — defended me, but to say it didn’t hurt would be a blatant lie. Thank you for reading and for your feedback; I can’t express how much it means to me.

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  10. I echo Scott – your writing is excellent. I look forward to reading more.

    I know two with schizophrenia. One attends my church and I am not even positive that is her diagnosis. The other is my brother, and his illness is fairly severe in that he can’t work. He doesn’t bathe regularly, he often refuses medications, and he eats very poorly. He rages when he is not on meds and makes us very afraid of him, for he has a history of violence.

    I say all of that because I think a significant number of schizophrenics are struggling on such a basic level that they might be on the street. They might be so focused on their voices and delusions that blogging, tweeting and even friendships just aren’t an issue. My brother has a strong propensity to self-isolate since he became ill, as many schizophrenics do. Before he became ill, he graduated college and worked in financial services until he was 30. He even passed the CPA exam. He has changed so drastically and now is so on the edge we are considering that he may soon need a group home.

    It is a lesser known fact that psychosis often degrades brain function. Because the laws in our state allowed my brother to refuse treatment for a year while he was psychotic, there was nothing we could do and he lost brain function. It is also not well known among the public that about 50% of the seriously mentally ill don’t know they are ill. It isn’t denial — it’s frontal lobe damage, also called anosognosia.

    Discrimination against those with schizophrenia is real, no doubt about it. But the best way to fight stigma and discrimination is to get the mentally ill treatment. When the mentally ill are treated, their likelihood to commit acts that make headlines is nil. The sooner we can make treatment, both voluntary (which is sorely lacking and ridiculously difficult to get), and involuntary (when anosognosia makes it necessary to prevent the brain damage of psychosis), the easier it will be for those with schizophrenia to feel safe to walk out of the shadows. It is well past time.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment. Treatment in this country and in many others is lacking so badly that it has become a borderline epidemic. I appreciate you sharing your experience openly. The biggest issue with those schizophrenics who are violent (which is by far not all of them) is that they are scared. What would anyone do if backed into a corner? If they felt they were being attacked? It is a basic survival instinct to defend yourself. I feel for your brother and what you go through as well. Deepest wishes for his ultimate healing.

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      1. Thanks, Allie. I so appreciate your supportive words.

        From little I have read about you so far, you seem to have found that inner drive to not let the illness define you, nor let it stop you from achieving your dreams. And perhaps you found good treatment too. Regardless, you are very blessed! I wish my brother could find that fight again too. He has given up on life.

        I absolutely agree that most often the violence comes from self defense, which could take the form of I have to do X because if I don’t the voices tell me that I will be killed. Or a cop approaches a schizophrenic who is acting a bit strangely, but is perfectly harmless, and that causes him to escalate in self defense.

        Lack of treatment is absolutely an epidemic. We have let the mentally ill be treated like garbage. There is no long term hospital treatment anymore. You are lucky to get two weeks which isn’t enough for someone in psychosis. We have replaced the asylum with the jail cell and the coffin.

        What amazes me is when someone is in bad psychosis, they are losing brain function. It is much like a stroke or heart attack. And we routinely deny people care when they are in this state – either because of capacity, because insurance doesn’t want to pay, or because the patient has anosognosia and refuses care (and our laws support that because shouldn’t someone’s civil rights be protected instead of their brain function?).

        We like to think as Americans, that we are a compassionate society. I believed that before I learned about how we treat the seriously mentally ill (SMI). Now I know better. The SMI are, more or less, in the same place African Americans were in the 1960s, where the disabled were before the ADA, and where gays were several decades ago. Yet many of the SMI are so ill, like my brother, they cannot speak for themselves. We have to change this. It is cruel and unconscionable.

        Thanks for letting me rant. Best wishes to you and may you have much success in your writing!

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      2. Thank you. You are absolutely correct. One of the reasons I am medication-free today is because I couldn’t get help. I couldn’t get the support I needed. The mental health system was a very bad experience for me. I never want to see the inside of a doctor’s office or hospital again because of it. I made it through, due to my hard-ass upbringing to never give up, but I don’t expect that from everyone. I agree that the stigma associated with the illness needs to be eradicated and in order to do that, we need a government who actually cares.

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      3. When I hear families describe their loved one as violent I feel the same way- he or she is emoting from fear. If your family member was killing neighborhood cats as a teen, then we have a real issue. Medication is good, but could we all learn to be a bit more loving and accepting? After the pill, then what? Do you keep focusing on all the other symptoms that need to be fixed? Or can we build on the strengths? Take a hike and invite the voices along? Hug a person with anhedonia rather than react to the dead look in their eyes? The human is inside. I am a sister with a brother and have over 30 years of watching the system try to figure out what to do with him. I’ve been an advocate of varying energy along all these years and when I read Allie’s blog post, the freshness of her truth are a nutrient to my advocate soul. Keep it coming.

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      4. Thank you, Janet. Medication is certainly helpful, but in my (non-medical) opinion, medication is not an endgame. I realize there isn’t a cure for this illness and many others, but I feel that there are underlying issues we, as the mentally ill, can gain the courage to address in an effort to live our lives without the horrible side-effects these medications come with. I am two-years medication free this month, and though I still struggle greatly with all the effects of schizophrenia including psychosis, I hold down my day job as best that I can and fight to make my dreams a reality every day. I really do feel that if I can do it, there are more out there that can too.

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    1. Thank you so much! Kudos to you for bringing a voice to the illness. I was actually misdiagnosed with schizoaffective before my official diagnosis was brought to schizophrenia. Our world needs more people like you speaking up.

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    1. Appreciate your reading and your comment Moze, but not sure how to reply to this? I don’t know if your thoughts are negative or positive. I’d be happy to offer a discussion if you can elaborate.

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      1. I think I just didnt understand at first what I was reading, but I understand now that i’ve read it a second time. I attribute part of my not understanding to my medication. I apologize. I had to read it a second time. I can identify with seeing advocates a lot more in, say, for bipolar, but not too many advocates for schizophrenia that HAVE schizophrenia, too. Hopefully I can be apart of that team of that has Schizophrenia and can advocate for it, too. I try to do that now.

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  11. I know where 2 of your schizophrenics are! One lives with me, (my 29 year old son) and one lives up the street, ( a 42 year old neighbor). I was hoping they would connect and hang out with each other, but no, too much social anxiety and phobia. Imagine my schizophrenic son being nervous that my schizophrenic neighbor may not like him, because everyone can hear his thoughts. My son is terrified of hurting someone’s feelings with his thoughts. But, as you know, that is known as thought broadcasting. No medication has touched that symptom, so he lives with it, and worries that someday he will be out in public and see a gorgeous girl and think, “look at that ass, man I’d like to hit that”! Where at that point she looks up and their eyes meet for half a second, which confirms that she did indeed hear his thoughts and he has to hang his head in shame and slink away, without so much as a goodbye to anyone. This is why he prefers to stay home.

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  12. A very illuminating post. I stumbled across your writing on Psychology Today and followed some of the links back to here. Good stuff. Don’t know anyone suffering from schizophrenia myself, but came across plenty of people who knew patients when I was doing work on my senior seminar paper about schizophrenia genetics. It opened my eyes, and now with what little bit I know I try to teach people about the disorder. I am glad to see someone speak out so articulately about schizophrenia, from their own experience. Beats my dry facts by a long shot, haha. As you said, too often people think of schizophrenics as violent (probably due in part to the popular confusion of “psychopathy” and “psychosis”), when in reality they’re more apt to be victims of violence, either at their own hands or those of others. Oddly though the most common misconception seems to be the idea that schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are the same thing. It’s hard for people to understand a disorder when they’re not even looking at the right one!

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    1. Thank you so much for your support and your kind comment, Andrew. I am finding more and more that is the misconception, actually. I can’t say enough how much we who are affected by schizophrenia appreciate your open mind. Thank you.

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  13. I have paranoid schizophrenia! I’m here. Right here. I tweet and I blog and I write and write. I also live in Southern California so it is not impossible that we could have coffee some day soon!

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  14. I am glad that you have come into my world. I am happy to be awoken in this way. I have not given schizophrenia a lot of thought and we all really should. I have always had compassion but have not really understood. I blow my horn about Bipolar because I feel Bipolar gets lost behind other illnesses but Schizophrenia really really does. People do not understand what it really is…even people with other mental illnesses. You are opening my eyes. And I really like to have my eyes opened.

    fist bump cousin

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    1. Thank you so much. I appreciate your kind words. I feel that Schizophrenia is so pushed under the rug so I have to speak up when I can. Thank you for your support.

      Like

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