People are often afraid to ask questions about my illness. In Schizophrenia Awareness Week, I want to set the record straight – it’s nothing to fear
I’ve battled what I now know is schizophrenia since my late teens, but it was only 12 months ago that I was formally diagnosed. I’m 42.
Schizophrenia is one of the most feared and misunderstood of mental illnesses. It affects around 15 of every 1,000 people, and in Australia the direct costs of the disease are estimated to be $2.5bn per year.
When I tell people that I have this illness, they’re often too afraid or too polite to ask questions. One friend thought it meant I had a split personality but that’s not the case. For me, schizophrenia manifests itself as distorted thinking, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions. It also makes me paranoid, which can lead me to think that people, even my own family and friends, are plotting against me.
When I’m ill, my thoughts feel like pieces of a mismatched jigsaw puzzle. It’s impossible to put them together in a way that makes any real sense.