Diagnosis helped make sense of behaviour

Elizabeth Mort

I would not advocate a change to the label, though I applaud the investigation.

'Schizophrenia', derived from the Greek 'split mind', seems to sum up my experiences rather well. While not split, in the sense of personality, my world has gone through a blender and been spat back out into pieces. Voices from the outside penetrate my brain. My thoughts are no longer just my own. Each number and each flashing light is a code for someone somewhere. The world is in pieces and every piece has meaning spilling out of it.

Having a word to put to that jumble has been, for me, a relief. Prior to that point, I had been engaging in a lot of destructive behaviour, envisaging I was an Antichrist saving the world. Guiding voices spat commands and I followed, flummoxed by the ethereal magic of it all.
I landed in hospital, a reluctant and involuntary guest. In hindsight, this was a good thing, and likely saved my life.

The word 'schizophrenia' sounded exotic and, I admit, a little scary. I was scary at the time, so no label would've come up smelling of roses. But a diagnosis helped me make sense of my behaviour, which seemed incongruent with who I was. It also helped me to approach medication, living support services, therapy and life-style changes. It gave me direction and something to recover from. It removed any fear that I had somehow been transposed, or overrun, by something otherworldly and unconquerable.

I suspect that the label itself need not be a problem, rather, the affixed prognoses need re-looking, and the stigma needs battling. Any new-fangled word will likely greet the same social dis-ease. I fear that the likes of 'depression' and 'bipolar' have had worthy anti-stigma campaigns while 'schizophrenia' has been lost in the dark. A new word will play bandage until it too comes crashing down and needs a new word.

If I can handle waking up to schizophrenia seven days a week, the rest of folk should learn to handle me waking up to schizophrenia seven days a week. It ain't like they'll catch it!