In the classic story, Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara experiences the complexities and tragedies of love as she falls in love with a man and then marries his brother just so she can be close to him. Her husband is killed in the war and she meets and marries another man, all while still in love with first one. Eventually, she is left alone and bereft, only gaining true insight about the ways in which her heart works after it’s too late. (more…)
Imagine you have cancer, complete with nasty symptoms that flare up at inopportune times. Now, imagine that your cancer is in remission — you haven’t had symptoms for a few months — and then something big happens. You break up with a partner, or you’re moving, or one of your parents dies. All of a sudden, your symptoms flare up again and leave you reeling in pain. This obviously isn’t a reality for cancer but for mental illness it is. There’s something strange that happens when stress enters your life. Your risk of a heart attack increases, your risk of diabetes increases and your symptoms of mental illness intensify pretty significantly. (more…)
Living with schizophrenia presents some complicated challenges. In the midst of paranoia, delusions and hallucinations, chores like doing the dishes or doing your laundry, and basic personal hygiene routines such as taking a shower and brushing your teeth become nuisances and ordeals. These basic tasks you have to perform to be a member of society fall by the wayside because they just don’t seem to matter at all when chaos is careening through your mind. It takes effort to do the things necessary to keep yourself, your house and your situation in good working order. But how do you “keep up appearances” when you are so focused on parsing reality from the outlandish things that your mind is telling you? There are several things that have helped keep me fed and clean and somehow able to pay rent every month, and hopefully some of those things may help you or your loved one, too. I realize it may be too difficult for a lot of people with mental illness to completely take care of themselves but, like everything else, it’s a process. I’ve only incorporated these things into my life after years of repetition and I still don’t have them down completely. Still, self-care is important, for recovery and also for general wellbeing. (more…)
Living with schizophrenia, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll come up against barriers, some of which may seem insurmountable. You’ll face tough days, weeks, months or even years, and all that pushing for some semblance of recovery or normalcy can easily overwhelm you. Stress is the light switch for symptoms of schizophrenia. As the stress starts to build, your paranoia can increase, you may start becoming obsessive and delusional and you can easily lose yourself in the midst of all these symptoms and find yourself in scary situations. When curve-balls come your way, you have to know how and when to pull back. In essence, you have to be conscious of what you’re feeling, you have to recognize your mind’s reactions to stimuli and be aware that the things you are experiencing are mostly in your head. Having a “wellness toolkit” filled with strategies that work for you will help you figure out your limits and gain an essential awareness of the maximum you can take without falling into delusion. (more…)
Mike Hedrick with his father
“We knew something was just not right.”
In talking with my parents about my psychotic break, the one thing that stands out from their experience is the fear and their worry about their son. When I was twenty years old, I went on a trip to the U.N. because I thought I was a prophet of God. I left without telling anybody and I didn’t call my parents until a week later when I had finally had enough and I decided to come home. The phone call was very cryptic. All I said was that I’d be home the next day and that they should pick me up at the train station. During that car ride, I started to ramble about aliens and my mission and the hugeness of it all. I was in awe that my parents couldn’t see it. (more…)
Schizophrenia is an insidious disease. It can be difficult to parse even the clearest facets of reality from the delusions in your head. The delusions you have can wreak havoc on your concept of the real world, of relationships and your idea of well being. Schizophrenic delusions are persistent, which is one of the major reasons recovery can take such a long time. (more…)
When you have schizophrenia, a number of strange things happen to you ranging from extreme paranoia to delusions of grandeur to everything in between. One of the things people with schizophrenia do that isn’t that widely understood is the tendency to make connections out of seemingly random things. It’s rather like a child constantly asking “Why?” until their parent reaches the very edges of human understanding and all they can say is, “Because that’s the way it is.” (more…)
I get messages from people all the time about my work. Many times, they’re looking for advice on how to help a loved one with mental illness. Sometimes I feel that, through me, they are trying to find some magic cure that can help immediately. The only advice I give is to be there and, above all else, give it time. That can be hard to come to terms with when your world seems so chaotic, but time is truly the only thing that can heal in situations like these. (more…)
The belief that you are somehow more powerful or more important than you are, or perhaps anybody is, is a serious and sometimes dangerous misperception. When I went on my trip to the U.N. in the midst of serious psychosis I believed, though I was still resistant, that I was a prophet sent by God to bring peace to the world. I had a philosophy of light balancing out dark, good balancing evil and opposite extremes cooperating to form a cohesive whole. I was unclear then on how exactly this partial philosophy would bring peace to the world and now, ten years out, I’m even more confused by it. (more…)
There are nights where I lie in bed, staring up at the ceiling and I ask for help. Sometimes the voice comes; sometimes it doesn’t but, in the times where it does, it gives me the reassurance that I need to, at the very least, make it through the night, and then to keep going the next morning. I talked, in my previous essay, about the mysterious voices in my head and the God voice is one of the two distinct voices I hear. The other is some kind of demon that I’ve talked at length about in my other writings, but the voice of God, as omnipotent and wise as it is, is still a symptom of my psychosis. (more…)
Throughout my ten years of living with schizophrenia, I’ve been privy to a number of strange occurrences as a result of my illness. These occurrences can range from delusional thinking that people are out to get me or that I’m much more important than I actually am. There are numerous other strange facets of the illness as well, but there’s one that has stuck around since the beginning: the voice of reason and rationality that sits in my head. I’ve tried to explain this any number of ways that never seem to do the phenomenon justice, but I’ve come to just think of it as the voice of God. I only call it that because it seems to have the answers I’m looking for when I pray for advice. It’s a seemingly always sensible voice that guides my thinking back to the reality of the situation in times of crisis and it’s been there with me since I had my first major episode. (more…)
Imagine you’re living your life, everything’s normal until, one day; you come across a pretty significant coincidence. Maybe you moved to a new city and you don’t know anyone and then, one day, you’re at the coffee shop and your old girlfriend from high school comes in. You haven’t seen her or talked to her in years and you didn’t know that she lived in the same city. Imagine it’s a few days later and you’re at the grocery store and you run into her again, this time at the checkout. You might ask yourself why you keep running into her, but you excuse it with the notion that this may be a metaphorically small town. Imagine now that you’re going to work and you see her pass by in her car. Why does this keep happening, you ask? Is she following you? Did she put a tracker on your car? (more…)
I’ll be honest: it hurts to be called “crazy.”
In living with mental illness there are always certain things you have to deal with, from ongoing symptoms to anxiety to the numerous side effects that come hand in hand with many of the medications out there. It could be argued, though, that the label “crazy” is among the hardest to deal with. (more…)
Editor’s Note: OC87 Recovery Diaries is proud to welcome Mike Hedrick to the team as a regular contributor. We will feature a piece of Mike’s writing on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, in addition to essays from our guest writers. Mike writes openly, candidly and often humorously about his mental illness with the hope that his work provides strength to millions worldwide who are like him.
Mike’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Salon.com, the Washington Post and several other major publications. Published in 2013, Mike’s book, Schizophrenic Connections, is available on Amazon.com.
Having schizophrenia hasn’t been a picnic. Over the last ten years I’ve struggled with so many different complications, nuances, symptoms, side-effects and annoyances that it would take a multi-volume encyclopedia to lay everything out. Lucky for you I’m limited to 2,000 words. (more…)
My name is Mike Hedrick. I’m a writer and I’ve lived with schizophrenia for ten years.
I can remember sitting on my couch, having just smoked marijuana, my mind darting sideways and upside-down when I noticed the sound of the refrigerator’s compressor clicking on. It made a jarring, machine-like hum and whir and continued on for several minutes. There were tiny variations in the whir though and, from somewhere inside my head, it occurred to me that this was the aliens. The aliens were communicating with me through the hum and whir of my refrigerator’s compressor. Though I didn’t know what they were saying, I sat down at my brother’s synthesizer and punched out a long warbly note that I hoped would do the job. I wanted to say, “I hear you”, I wanted to say “I get it.”
If it wasn’t aliens communicating with me, it was the government, having placed cameras and microphones all around my apartment, so small and so well hidden that not even tearing apart toasters and smoke detectors yielded any results. They knew what I was saying, and they could see what I was doing. (more…)