This Life: The need to know

You cannot easily explain the fear and weirdness of schizophrenia to people who care for you. My family desperately tried to understand what was happening to me and if there was anything they could do to help. I tried to give them an insight even though I could not explain it fully.

Although I do not always subscribe to the view that you cannot know what it is like to have schizophrenia unless you have had it yourself, my family had the impression that hearing voices is so “weird” they could not understand the experience. Yes, they recognised it must have been frightening but some thought was required on their behalf. I emphasised what the voices said but often it was just the fact that you heard them that caused the fear.

A few years ago I was being driven through the Lake District. There was nobody to be seen for miles around and I started hearing a voice. How could it reach me in the middle of nowhere? Sometimes people who hear voices explain this by saying they get messages from aliens or transmitters – this is because of the sheer “weirdness” of the whole experience.

We can all be afraid at times. With schizophrenia what you get is a kind of mental conditioning and I am not sure fear ever goes away in this sense. Fear destroys your confidence – and losing your confidence has a big impact. Different things frighten  different people and voices can be especially terrifying. It is this sort of fear that meant my first reaction was to lean on my family
for therapy so I told them about it.

Voices that criticise pick at your achilles heel. Dealing with psychology can make you vulnerable. You need family reassurance but you can be cut off from this unless you admit to them what is happening. In schizophrenia the paranoia which can cause fear cuts you off from many people at the same time. With your family there is a natural bond of trust so consequently they can  emotionally challenge what the voices say. Telling my family reassured me.

Having this reassurance is also essential to the whole business of me being sectioned, as it is for being taken into hospital, staying there and taking one’s medication. It makes the process less frightening, such as knowing that the doctors are not there solely to lock you up. This realisation can take time even with family support, but without such realisations it may be impossible. In some cases families can know more about schizophrenia than the patient.

My family inspired hope in me as my impression of schizophrenia was that every case was a severe one and no one is cured. This view was reinforced by my familiarity with the circuit of hospital, day centres and sheltered accommodation. Hopelessness can reinforce a sense of depression which is often a reaction to schizophrenia. I have been able to avoid this by frequent family contact and this more than anything has carried me through 15 years of hearing voices.

Mark Ellerby uses mental health

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.