According to English psychiatrist Anthony Storr,
“Schizophrenics are probably the most isolated people in the world. They are also quite remarkably alike.”
This blog is an attempt to break that rather self imposed shell.
Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness. It affects a person’s behavior, emotions and thinking in an unprecedented way. It is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, blunted emotions, disorganized thinking and withdrawal from reality. Delusions are false or irrational believes or opinions about yourself or your situation. Hallucination is a fact of seeing or hearing somebody or something that is not actually there. In a way they are false sensory perceptions. The paranoid type of schizophrenia is characterized primarily by delusions of persecution and grandeur.
I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in end 2005. It was a devastating year. Just in a span of a year I had lost everything. The year 2006 was most depressive year of my life. I thought I won’t be able to recover and spend meaningful life. The internet, specifically 10% suicide rate statistics, played a major role in that. I was unable to think coherently, let even speak. The years 2007 – 08 were spent in coming to terms with illness. Gradually I began to recover and have more control over my symptoms. Unable to secure a suitable job, I decided to improve my academic credentials. I took admission in MS Computer Engineering at College of EME, Rawalpindi in end 2008. I hoped that by doing an MS I would have a better chance of a job and rehabilitation. It proved to be exactly opposite!
The 2009 was a fateful year for me. It had so much in store for me – hopes, disappointments, psychosis and self recovery. It started with a bang. I experienced my first visual hallucination. I saw the sun rising from North for some time. Rising the sun from West is a major sign that that will appear near the Judgment Day according to a saying of prophet Muhammad (PBUH). After that I experienced two more equally disturbing visual hallucinations. I will discuss these in a future post.
After experiencing the hallucination I entered in my second major psychotic phase that lasted for about six months. My belief that I am being tracked turned into a firm conviction. I still feel that I am under some sort of loose surveillance!! I felt that the fellow students were not cooperating with me. One Army instructor even tried to probe some aspects in front of the class twice which I felt. I knew that there were stories ranging from implication to a planned board out after my ouster from Pakistan Army.
I visited the psychiatrist to discuss my problems. It was difficult for me to sell the idea that fellow students and even instructors were against me. He increased my dose which I did not take as it was affecting my studies. He also advised me to avoid selected people. I ended up in avoiding too many! He advised to share my thoughts and opinions with some one or write them in a diary. I tried to discuss it with my father. He felt uneasy as he thought that I was again going into psychosis. Only my younger sister had the patience to listen to my thoughts.
Though I passed in all subjects, the conditions became difficult for me to continue. I was not following any subject in second semester. I opted to withdraw from the course. After a break of about 4 months I got admission in MS Electrical in same college. I was uncomfortable with the time table. It was tailor made by men in uniform to discourage me! It suited neither instructors nor students. Only Electrical Engineering department had come up with this wonderful time table! It was difficult to travel for 3 hours to attend a lecture of 1 to 2 hours, 5 days a week for 3 subjects. I tried to get 5 days squeezed into 3 but it proved futile. I soon realized that it won’t be worth time and effort to do MS and gave up that too!
Beginning in October 2009, I started to do a post mortem analysis of my previous 6 months or so. Earlier I had discontinued the medicines after taking them for about 4 years. I decided that I won’t take any more medicines. I realized that I had been through second major psychotic phase. I came out of it with my own will power. It had been quite a learning experience. Meanwhile I started giving a second thought to idea of writing about my thoughts and opinions. I discovered that there are many blogs on the net by people with mental illnesses sharing their experiences. I thought it would be a good idea to start my own.
Earlier in 2005, I had expressed my belief that I considered my grandfather to be Jesus Christ. Muslims also believe in the Second Coming of Jesus as do the Christians. This statement effectively sealed my fate as schizophrenic but none of the psychiatrists asked a single line question. Why? Though I never considered myself to be Imam Mahdi, the psychiatrists chose to write that I had such an “unshakeable belief”. How they came upon this conclusion is still a mystery to me. I did consider myself to be some sign of Last Hour but not Imam Mahdi. In future posts I intend to write about them as how some real world events were responsible for such beliefs/claims.
The award winning Hollywood movie “A Beautiful Mind” has brought the mental illnesses particularly schizophrenia to the attention of masses. I myself was labeled as a genius in the College and one of my nicknames was Laplace in rhythm with my surname Abbas. I had a very good academic record. I had seen the movie while healthy but even then I went into delusional thinking. There seems to be some link between genius or creativity and schizophrenia.
The notion of schizophrenia as a life sentence is over. About one third of all schizophrenic patients make a complete and permanent recovery, though subsequent course is extremely variable. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist. If you happen to be a victim of mental illness, consult a good physician. Medication is not the only answer. Psychotherapy and supportive therapy may be more effective than drugs. Explore your interests. Read the best selling book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R Covey, particularly chapter on first habit. You have control on your every action you make. I know it is easier said than done. But it is my conviction that you can overcome it with the power of human will.
In Pakistan, there is a little awareness about mental illnesses especially schizophrenia. Some of my family members think that it is effect of some magic. Others think that it were personal i.e. marriage problems that drove me to illness. There is a stigma associated with mental illnesses. It has put me in a serious disadvantage in almost every sphere of life.
Through this blog I want to set the record straight about my illness. My first few posts will focus mainly on facts, opinions and speculations. I will come to delusional aspects a bit later. I anticipate that some of it might generate controversy but I am ready for it. I will appreciate any feedback.