I suffer from schizophrenia…

Now I realize a lot of people’s reaction to that will be ‘knife-wielding maniac’, ‘Norman Bates’, ‘Hannibal Lecter’ or even ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’.

Trust me when I tell you ‘I’ve heard them all before’. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame you in the slightest for feeling that way, for this is how the media portrays us. But the reality is that that stereotype only applies to a small percentage of us. To believe otherwise invites the same mentality and prejudice that preaches that all Muslims are terrorists or all Catholic priests are paedophiles. All autistics are like ‘Rainman’, or all gay men wear leather caps and have big handlebar moustaches. It is simply not the case. We are all different. I believe that people with mental illness are an unrecognized minority group who cannot fend for themselves. As a result of this, they are victimized by a system that refuses to understand or even tolerate them.

In Britain, they are trying to pass a ‘Bill’ that states ‘anyone registered as having any form of mental illness can be detained without ever having done anything wrong, institutionalized and force-fed anti-psychosis drugs.’ In essence, stop the crime before it happens and strip a quarter of the population of their civil liberties and basic human rights. The very thought of this terrifies me. I have never so much as been in trouble with the police and I don’t have a violent bone in my body. Yet if they pass this ‘Mental Health Bill’, I could be taken off the street or from my home, detained and institutionalized without trial, provocation or even defense. The fact that it gains more support each time it rears its ugly head is testament to the ignorance of the masses…

…Terribly sorry, I’ve strayed off the path (cancel rant mode). Yes, I have schizophrenia. Yes, I have voices in my head. And yes, I can be prone to delusional states and disturbing thoughts. But this is why I write, this is why my fictions become so intense as to border on reality. Quite simply, however briefly, I live them…
I stopped taking my medication nine years ago, because writing in all forms has replaced it. I can’t not write, I don’t get writer’s block because my mind is constantly active and will not switch off. Voices and visions have long plagued my sleep patterns and waking hours, fighting for dominance in my eyes and works. I take Zopiclone and cannabis to help me sleep, for a few hours peace, co-codamal to tame the headaches. I’m exhausted, but I’m never short of something to write.

Compared to most schizophrenics I am fortunate, because not all the voices in my head are malevolent. They whisper ideas and sometimes even entire passages in my ear as I write. They harmonize with me as I sing my songs; they even help me write my lyrics. Yes, I have bad patches, but who doesn’t? Yes, I have dark thoughts. Again, who doesn’t? My strongest malevolent voices, I recognize as my ‘Paranoia’, ‘Self-loathing’ and ‘Self-doubt’. They are my darkness to bare and in no way affect anyone around me. When they’d strike I used to cut myself because it numbed their influence. Now I have more control over them, I read to distract me from the grip they have over me. That said, I wouldn’t change them for anything. They are part of me and I would not be whole without them and not nearly as creative either. This is who I am, it can’t be helped, changed or ignored.

The problem is other (so called normal) people. Friends who I believed would be around for life that have turned their backs on me when they’ve discovered what I am. Others have just taken advantage of me, stolen from me and shunned me. Simply because I am a nutter, I am not like them. I don’t share their yob mentality, so I must be mad!

I have long held my own counsel and am very guarded as to who I reveal this too. I find it very hard to trust in the intentions and motives of others. But every now and then someone comes along that I recognize as a kindred soul or that I can’t help but trust. And I am revealed before them, as I am revealed before you now.

You see? Now that I have opened up to you and stand before you unveiled…

…I am at your mercy…

Will you still be my friend?

Fritz O’Skennick (c)

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