I am schizophrenic. What does that mean? No, there are not two personalities in me and no, I do not hear voices in my head. In fact, right now you would never guess that I am one of those ‘crazy’ people. I seem normal and healthy. I have a job and a good life. So I was really lucky. The damage to my soul was not so deep that it could not heal.
The illness I suffer from can derail a personal existence forever. It can lead to self-harm or suicide. It can lead to a life where you can´t connect to people anymore. I have seen people who were so occupied by their own strange thoughts and feelings they could not lead a life outside of a psychiatric hospital. Being schizophrenic means having an illness in your soul. It is, when it is acute, a nightmare-like distortion of reality that you cannot escape from. It is a terrifying, yet fascinating experience. It can leave you unable to lead a life without professional help but it can also lead to having a different point of view on life in general. So I want to try to explain the experience I had and try and give you an insight into what it is like to be psychotic.
It starts with the feeling that people talk and whisper about you on the bus or in other places. You begin feeling like the things that happen around you are somehow planned or evolve around your thoughts. The music on the radio suddenly has a message in it that only you can hear.
Then you start believing that you are being pursued by evil forces. At some point, everything that happens is planned and supposed to lead or guide you. Your life is being threatened. When you are in an acute psychotic episode you can take actions people who are not in your situation can never understand.
Imagine being on a trip, on a rollercoaster ride of thoughts and experiences. Everything that happens around you somehow connects to your thoughts. And the people around you start to behave strangely, at least in your conception. You float through night and day, you are driven to discover things that happen in the real world but only you can see the miracle behind them. At the same time, you feel pursued by evil. Things that are completely normal for most people can be extremely frightening to you. It can be a real nightmare.
When someone is psychotic they might just lock themselves up in their room, because the outside world seems frightening and just overstimulating. Or they might run away from their family and look for something that explains why they are having these strange thoughts and feelings.
I myself went on a trip that led me to London. But you cannot compare the trip that I had with something like a holiday. I had a serious paranoia. In my world, I was an angel and had to find out my mission that was to save the world from the devil. But there were also fallen angels who felt that I was seeking to destroy their evil empire. So, of course, they would at some point try to stop me. Feeling like you could be kidnapped by evil angels who want to stop you from achieving a mission that you first have to find. Crazy right? But that is a typical interpretation of the psychotic conception.
So what happened next? At some point, I ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Although I did not accept my state of mind as a symptom of an illness, I was convinced to try and take some medication.
The nightmare began to fade away. But so did the feeling of being so connected to the world around me. I started feeling trapped inside my own body and mind.
I got used to the medication. I have to honestly say that it saved my life. I am now leading a life which makes me happy. I left behind what was really pulling me down. I am lucky: I have a loving family, a job, good friends and my illness has been cured.
Please, if you know someone who is unwell and you feel like they or the people around them are in danger, do not hesitate to get professional help. Someone suffering from psychosis will not be able to see his being ill. But even if you cannot get them to take the medication that might help them, try to get them to go to a place where there is no risk of self-harm or harming others.
And remember: Do not be ashamed because you need help. There will be a time when you can show gratitude.
Tim Bergfeld is a mental health advocate.