This Is What Developing Acute Schizophrenia Feels Like

This article from Vice.com is one of the best I have ever read.  The writer explains in plain English what he was thinking, seeing, and feeling during this period of his life.

As a psychiatric nurse, I have had to watch this illness manifest but I never truly had any idea what my patient was really feeling.  I knew from conversation what delusions or persecutions my patient was seeing or thinking about; never had a way inside his mind before until this article.

Please read this entire article.  Please try to understand what this man is telling you.  Schizophrenia is an illness that manifests in the mind.  That doesn’t in any way take away the fact that it is an illness.

I wish I had read this article when I was still practicing.  I believe it would have given me a different way to help my patients.


 

This Is What Developing Acute Schizophrenia Feels Like

By Daniel Smith

October 15, 2014

A year ago this winter, I began to not recognize myself.

Sleep was the first thing to change. Progressively, over the course of about two weeks, I began struggling to drift off. As a 24-year-old man with a good supply of hash, this had never been a problem before. It was so odd. Seemingly out of the blue, I’d get into bed at night and not be able to shut off my brain. Thoughts would grow tendrils and loop onto other thoughts, tangling together like a big wall of ivy. Some nights, I’d pull the covers over my head, grab my face hard in my hands, and whisper, “Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”

Eventually I would be able to get to sleep, but I’d wake up feeling peculiar, like I had forgotten to do or tell someone something. Hunger wasn’t as aggressive as it usually was during this time, either. Normally I bolt downstairs to pour a heaping bowl of Frosted Flakes the second my eyes open. Instead, I woke each morning with a sick, creeping feeling in my gut. Still, I carried on as normal, thinking I’d just lay off the hash for a bit. That was probably it. I wasn’t panicked.

I carried on my work at a local wine shop and tried to push what was happening during the night to the back of my mind. I got through the days OK, if slightly bleary-eyed-but looking back now I can see that I had started to struggle with simple conversations.

If my boss told me to check a delivery, it’d take me a few seconds to process what he was saying, like two or three people had said it at the same time and I couldn’t make out the clear instruction. Looking at morning delivery slips and trying to make sense of them in my head was like trying to make out a tree in the fog-possible, but hard.

Everything felt misty. I started to think that stuff was about to fall all the time-I’d look at a shelf of bottles and see one or two about to topple over, then look again and they’d be fine. I also kept thinking I could hear phones ringing, at all different pitches, even though there were no phones in the warehouse. Again, I wasn’t panicking yet-I just told everyone who asked if I was OK that I wasn’t sleeping well and thought it was all down to that. Sleep deprivation does weird things to people. A friend at work gave me some sleeping pills to try out, and they seemed to help for a bit, even though I’d wake up and feel like my head was full of wool. I stopped caring about going to bars or playing soccer on the weekends. All I wanted to do was sleep. Conversations were too much work.

I’d say it probably took two months from that initial sleeplessness for me to actually think there was something seriously wrong with me. The thought octopuses, as I ended up calling them, got weirder and weirder at night. I’d have the TV on and start being unable to identify what was noise coming from the screen and what was my own noise. It was frightening. One night, while watching Homeland (of all the shows), I had what I thought at the time was a panic attack. I knew what a panic attack was because one of the girls I used to go out with had them-she once had to lie down in the movie theater and do deep breathing to stop herself from retching. It was horrible to watch. That night in bed, though, I started trembling like it was freezing cold-only my skin was boiling. My legs shook against the bed sheets and there was this cacophony in my head, like a crowd of people were chatting beside my pillow. Nothing dramatic, just a steady, confusing noise. By the flickering light of the TV, I began to lose my mind.

I didn’t sleep at all that night. I felt paralyzed. My bedroom door had become the very end of my world, like the paper set Jim Carrey rows into in the final scene of The Truman Show. The noise came and went in waves, but it felt like someone, or something, had replaced my body and mind. It wasn’t me who was too scared to go to the bathroom to piss, so I decided to do it into an empty glass, spilling it all over the floor. It wasn’t me who threw all my bed sheets off, only feeling comfortable completely naked against the bare mattress. It wasn’t me who pressed the tip of a boxcutter into my heel to try and snap myself out of the despair. In that room, as the sun came up and my alarm went off for work, I thought, I need my mom.

Luckily, she was only a staircase away. I hadn’t gotten myself together to move out of home yet-couldn’t afford to, really. I called her from my phone because I thought that if I left my bedroom my insides were going to fall out. I genuinely believed crossing the threshold of my bedroom doorframe into the hallway would make my skull come apart and my bowels fall out of me like a bucket of pig swill. She answered the phone and said, “Oh for goodness sake, Daniel,* stop messing around,” or something similar. I started crying, apparently in big, whooping sobs like a little boy, and heard her throwing her phone on the floor through the ceiling.

When she opened my door, she gasped. I don’t remember doing it, but apparently I’d pulled apart my TV remotes (I had, like, four of them) and my bare mattress was covered in little circuit boards, piss, and blood (from my heel). I sat there in my underwear, crying, and told her that I’d been “taken over.” She called an ambulance. (read the rest of this article here)

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