Our Readers' Lives with Schizophrenia

Chapter 3. Psychotic Symptoms


Updated: July 19th, 2001

Contents


Hallucinations

Reba, mother of Eric:
Eric, who is now 30 years old, has been caught up in a web of hallucinations and delusions for at least ten years. There were times when he would look at me with distant bewilderment and scream, "Leave me alone--you're not my mother!" At different times, Eric was obsessed with religion and the occult. His paranoia affects every aspect of his life. There was one incident where he demanded an ax to chop his head off and stop "it" in his head. The voices were just too much for him to cope with. At this point, admittance to a hospital was required against his will. When Eric continues to take his medicine, the voices subside and his thought processes improve. However, his condition will always remain "guarded" as he refuses medication periodically, then he loses all perspective and gets rescued from the streets for bizarre behavior. I am thankful that he has not been arrested and placed in jail for he is not a criminal. He is a very kind, tender hearted, extremely sensitive person.

Rachel:
[Sept. 15, 1999]
I first started hearing 3 male voices commenting on my behaviour and sometimes judging me, calling me useless and lazy. These went away with medication but, when I relapsed I had just one voice that was telling me to cut myself and kill myself over and over again. This was the hardest to deal with.

When I was in hospital during a bad bout of my illness I started seeing loads of big spiders coming out of cracks in the ceiling, coming towards me. I was distraught.

Mike:
[Nov. 4, 1999]
I never consider the running thoughts in my head as voices. It's like thinking out loud and I know it's not possible, but I feel other people know what I'm thinking. I get nervous in almost all social situations and panic. I can't talk to someone that I don't know real well without tripping out. I did drugs when I was younger and had a series of bad trips or highs. Until recently I dismissed these strange thoughts as drug damage or flashbacks.

Kim:
[Jan. 23, 2000]
Recently I have been hearing a specific voice, a very evil deep mans voice. It started out sounding like the devils voice, then it started talking to me, most of the time very degrading negative comments. I had a recent trip to see my counselor. When the session was over, I was feeling a little better until that voice told me in a evil creepy way "I am still here, even counseling won't get rid of me." When I was in my car driving home I was so terrified of it and I was so scared, I just kept driving. The voice then told me to kill myself in a slow, painful way. That same evening I was watching the news and they had a segment about roller coasters. When they showed the roller coaster from the cameras point of view, the voice started going "wooooooo hooooooooo" like it loved riding the roller coaster.

Scott:
[Feb. 1, 2000]
The only thing that keep going through my head is continuous music. A lot of times I'll self-inflict my thoughts to some kind of music in order to have a flow to follow to get me through my day. I would say that it happens about 70% of the time. I'm into house music so it isn't degrading to listen to. I'm sure a lot of non-psychotic people listen to their thoughts this way.

Ron:
[Apr. 11, 2000]
When acute, my positive symptoms are hallucinations and delusions. The hallucinations affect all my senses, i.e., voices (hear things), visual (see things), touch (feel body sensations) and taste. What happens is that all these hallucinations work together so they lead me into an alternate reality (delusions), which grows and builds upon itself and takes total control of my being. This lasts for months or years to varying degrees. I was psychotic for most of the 1980's.

Angie:
[Apr. 22, 2000]
I have auditory hallucinations. Most of the time, even when I take my medications, the voices are very low and stay in the background, sort of like a radio that is on but you can't always make out what is being said. I always thought that everyone heard voices like that. When I am under a lot of stress, things get more out of control: the voices get louder. It is like you are at a party with all this noise and it gets louder and louder. My voices taunt me and ridicule me and eventually I want to kill myself because they convince me that is the only thing I can do. I have had one nearly successful suicide attempt where I ended up in a coma for three days and then in the hospital for several months. I have also had numerous other attempts. In addition, I have a 3-1/2 year old son and in the last 3 years I have also had the voices telling me that I have to kill my son because I shouldn't hurt him by leaving him here on earth. I have been able to get into the hospital on time to stop me from doing any harm to my boy but I have hurt myself. Even in the hospital I manage to cut and scratch myself.

The antipsychotic medications work but if I take high enough doses to totally eliminate the voices, then I am like a zombie and unable to function once I am out of the hospital and have to earn a living. I do work full time as a Junior Accountant and see a psychiatrist on a weekly basis. Between him, my husband, and a close friend, I have managed to survive so far but each hospitalization seems to wear me down a little bit more, and the voices rage at me faster and louder. I tell myself that it would be easier if I would take the higher doses of the antipsychotics especially when I am going through stressful times, which seem to be all the time, but I always have this running dialogue with the voices against that idea and they usually they win.

Andy:
[Apr. 26, 2000]
I heard voices almost nonstop for most of two years. At first, it was just two voices inside my head talking to each. I thought they were just my thoughts and that nothing strange was going on. After all, doesn't everyone hear his/her own thoughts? Later, more voices joined in the conversations, some of them from outside my head. I thought I could talk to the voices with my mind, so no one heard me talking to them. Some of the voices started telling me what to do. At first they tried to make me do benign things, like play on the computer. Then they became nastier. They insisted that I hurt or kill myself or other people (I never obeyed these commands). They taunted me in class and talked about me to each other, like I wasn't even there. I started to have visions that I sometimes believed were caused by the voices. I saw my own death and the inside of my head. I read words like "psychotic" in books where they didn't exist. This went on for weeks at a time or even longer. Eventually, I got on medication and the hallucinations stopped.

Derek:
[May 6, 2000]
I would hear this voice that I thought was God telling me that I was His favorite servant in all of history. The voice, after a period of time would turn to one of condemnation, telling me that I was the devil, specifically the Antichrist. No matter what I did, the prophecy concerning me and my destiny was unalterable, deceiving the whole world and burning in hell for eternity.

I had audiovisual hallucinations. One time I thought God was speaking to me from pink colored lightning in a cloud. Another time, at my cousin's baseball game, I had an encounter with who I thought was Satan himself, disputing with me over my friend's soul. My overall experience with schizophrenia has been one of extreme false happiness (believing I was God's favorite) and one of extreme terror (believing I was the Antichrist).

Ryan:
[July 15, 2000]
During my psychotic episodes I did not hear voices, but during my last psychotic episode, which was also the most severe, I would see people's eyes and they seemed to be turning blue.

Now that I am on medication, I don't see things, but sometimes when I am trying to fall asleep, I hear whistling or sound effects. I also sometimes hear people's voices, but only once was it distinct enough for me to tell what they were saying. I think it was a woman's voice and she said, "Speak up."

Laura:
[Oct. 19, 2000]
I remember when I first noticed my son acting different. He would be yelling at the TV or the game he was playing, saying "your not playing right!" I never put too much into it. At first I thought he had an imaginary friend. Until one day he was in the pool and he was getting very upset, swearing and saying he was going to kick their butts. I asked who he was talking to. He was the only one in the pool, and he said, "My friends. What's it to you?"

Now my son is 10 years old and he has always liked knives, so I would lock them up. One night he looked at me and said that he was going to cut off his ankles and put the blood all over me. I was stunned! I asked him, "Why? This will hurt you." He replied, "Not as much as it hurts you seeing me hurt." The look in his eyes was so empty and careless. He was waking up in the middle of the night, screaming, "Get them off!" My husband and I would turn on the lights to see what was there but there was nothing. We would tell our son that we can't see it and he was getting even more upset. "They're here. I can see them and feel them!" he said. My heart at that time just dropped; I felt so sorry for him and there was nothing I could do for him but to hold him.

D:
[Dec. 2, 2000]
I have just recently come out of hospital, recovering from a psychotic episode. I heard voices that I knew and was thoroughly convinced were coming from Satan himself. Also, there was another voice berating me all the time, calling me "stupid" and an "idiot", etc. I also saw things like vibrant colours and blood running down the walls. All this was very terrifying and upsetting but was brought under control by the drugs. I also thought I was evil and that Satan had possessed my body and my mind and made me act in strange and unusual ways that I later regretted. I nearly tried to stab my husband. He has been wonderfully supportive and understanding though, and realized I was a separate person than my illness.

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Delusions

Rachel:
[Sept. 15, 1999]
My first delusion, that I developed early on, was that I had an alien inside of me. Something that had got into every part of me including my bloodstream. I believed this for years. I used to cut myself to try and get rid of part of it. No matter what my doctor said when I was finally diagnosed would convince me otherwise.

I also got very paranoid, thinking that people were following me and that I was part of a government program because of the alien. That they were watching me all the time. I even thought that the staff in hospital were part of the scheme at some points of my illness.

Lindsay:
[Dec. 1999]
My family keeps telling me about this one delusion I had in which I thought I was a vampire and I actually glued fangs into my mouth one night. My belief in this was so real that I became the vampire, I actually would cut myself if there was no one else to suck blood. I tried to bite my friend and ended up hurting her wrist. My fangs were made from plastic but no one was going to tell me that I wasn't a vampire. I actually believed that the reason I got my days and nights mixed up was because I was a vampire and I had never realized it before. Later I found out its just a symptom of Schizophrenia.

M:
[Jan. 11, 2000]
I started having pain in my hand which according to blood tests was the early signs of arthritis. I checked myself into a full-service hospital with a psychiatric unit. I talked to someone about insurance coverage and was told I might not be covered because two weeks before I got out of a stand-alone mental hospital after a two month stay. Besides I did not feel I deserved care since I was the Antichrist. These thoughts had been building for years since I saw the movie The Omen on cable TV. I thought the world was going to end on January 1, 2000 and the only one who could prevent it was Jesus Christ. He could not be born again until I (the Antichrist) died so I decided to take drastic action. I signed myself out of the hospital went to the hospital parking garage, climbed to the top (fifth floor) and jumped off.

To my current relief, it did not kill me but required another two month hospital stay along with major surgery. I broke my right leg, several ribs, and my left shoulder.

Any person who thinks they are the Antichrist and/or has supernatural demonic powers should tell somebody and get immediate help. Please do not repeat my mistake. I was given another chance, you may not be so lucky!

Scott:
[Feb. 1, 2000]
Lost my job because of being bullheaded. Job was going so well that I quit taking my medication. The worst thing that I have done so far and I cannot imagine anything worse because I had the job that I dreamed about since I was 12. However, there is a chance to get that job back and maybe even a better one.

Andy:
[Apr. 26, 2000]
When I was first ill, I started to believe that thoughts were leaking out of my head into the surrounding air. I felt that I needed to stay away from everyone so they wouldn't "see" my thoughts floating around and enter my mind through them. Later in my illness, I thought a TV commercial for Paxil was making fun of me and that the faculty members of my school were conspiring with my neighbors to steal money from my family. I thought these ideas were perfectly rational at the time, but later, when they went away on medication, I realized that I had been delusional for months.

George:
[June 14, 2000]
I have had schizophrenia for about 18 years now. I hear voices that sometimes yell at me in Russian. My grandmother was Russian and did teach me to speak the language. Until about April of this year I was working in a Casino in the Security department. I believe that there was a machine hidden somewhere in the casino that controls peoples' minds. It makes them lose money, etc. For some reason this machine kept track of me at all times, and the people I worked with were trying to poison me. When I was at home, there were people always watching me. I then draw the curtains shut and sometimes have to hide in the house so they will not kill me. I cannot go to the stores or out anywhere at this time. I feel I am having a panic attack most of the time also. I am seeing a psychiatrist and my wife has to drive me there. He has prescribed Risperdal, 6mg and Valium, 10mg for the panic attacks and anxiety. I still do not feel much better, nor can I work or go out unless I have to, like to the doctor's.

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Thought Disorder

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Altered Sense of Self

Andy:
[Apr. 26, 2000]
My altered sense of self started very early in my illness. My hands looked smaller than they used to and this worried me terribly. My left arm seemed to belong to something else and kept moving around when I didn't want it to. It reached up my right sleeve and grabbed my right arm all the time.

Brian:
[Jun. 12, 2001]
The first time this happened it really freaked me out. I was sitting in my kitchen, the only place I could sit and sleep, and I got this really eerie sensation of how large my hands are. Still freaks me out to think of it...

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Becoming the Centre of the World

Scott:
[Feb. 1, 2000]
If I hear a familiar song and I know the words, I can inflict pain onto whomever I am looking at simply by the fact that I am so familiar with the song. A strongly imbedded trait that I have because of the fact that my mother always played popular music when she and I were alone, she doing dishes in the kitchen and me in the living room while Dad was away. Usually drinking.

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Rich Fantasy Life

Brennon:
[Sept. 5, 2000]
When I was having one of my many psychotic episodes, I thought that God was going to take me to heaven after turning my body into pure light. I thought that Moses and Elijah, from the bible, were my friends, and I could see them in the mirror looking back at me with proud faces. At this time, I also thought that the T.V. programs were only for me. Three years ago, when this happened, the postal service was on strike. They talked about the fact that it was resolving and that delayed messages and parcels were finally going to be sent out. I thought God, because of what I saw and heard on the T.V. was going to answer long lost prayers and heal the sick and mentally ill. I thought God was going to come back on the day that the strike resolved. I was very excited and so touched that I cried and laughed at the same time. The horrible thing about it was that my Mom and Dad had to have me hospitalized because of my erratic behavior and the fact that I climbed a mountain to meet God all without shoes on. I ended up staying the night up on this mountain for the very, very long night. My feet were so badly scared and damaged that I couldn't walk for two months. But anyway, like I was saying, the most horrible part was when I received antipsychotics. I slowly realized that everything I hoped for was all made up in my mind and that all the wonderful and complex things I saw, heard, and believed wouldn't happen and couldn't happen, ever!

You see, for me, the worst part of this whole thing was realizing that I was tricked by my own mind. I was so depressed and angry at God that none of it was actually real. So in ending, for me, having a fantasy is much easier than realizing that it was never real and the realization that you can never trust your mind again, at least not without questioning it a hundred times. My heart goes out to all who read this, and suffer from schizophrenia. At least we have each other to lean on and medications that sometimes help with living a life in a, sometimes, very ignorant and cold world. I hope that people will eventually learn that the mentally ill are usually not violent like the media and Hollywood often describes many of us as. I know for me, that, most the time I just wanted to be left alone.

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Bizarre Behaviour

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