I used to lay in bed at night listening to the pounding, screaming and fighting amongst the children of my upstairs neighbors. This wasn’t the typical stuff about who ate my last cookie. This was a nightmare of violence for which I called the police more than once. It kept me up for most of the six years I lived there. For my own sanity, I sold my condo and moved but not after embarking on a journey of discovery which revealed the family above me who was experiencing a great deal of pain. Two of the three teenage children were suffering a serious mental illness: schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a scary word for many. It seems in speaking with people who have escaped being touched by it, not much is commonly known and when the word is uttered in conversation, it’s said in hushed tones, and with a little judgment. I think there’s a stigma around this serious mental illness and even most psychologists won’t touch it with a 10-ft pole because it can be very draining for everyone involved.
What is schizophrenia? According to the Mayo Clinic, schizophrenia is characterized by thoughts or experiences that seem out of touch with reality, disorganized speech or behavior, and decreased participation in daily activities. Difficulty with concentration and memory may also be present.
Here’s how it looks:
- Behavioral: social isolation, disorganized behavior, aggression, agitation, compulsive behavior, excitability, hostility, repetitive movements, self-harm, or lack of restraint
- Cognitive: thought disorder, delusion, amnesia, belief that an ordinary event has special and personal meaning, belief that thoughts aren’t one’s own, disorientation, memory loss, mental confusion, slowness in activity, or false belief of superiority
- Mood: anger, anxiety, apathy, feeling detached from self, general discontent, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, elevated mood, or inappropriate emotional response
- Psychological: hallucination, paranoia, hearing voices, depression, fear, persecutory delusion, or religious delusion
- Speech: circumstantial speech, incoherent speech, rapid and frenzied speaking, or speech disorder
- Also common: fatigue, impaired motor coordination, or lack of emotional response
According to many of the experts, there’s no known cure and it’s common to heavily drug a person afflicted by it. But there’s a group in Finland who’ve developed something called Open Dialogue. Watch this short video to learn more about it.
It’s exciting to be a part of this effort and who knows, maybe someday we’ll be able to help my old neighbors.