Friday, May 1, 2015

Schizophrenia. What it is, not what it's not.

Did you reread that? I hope so. Did I grab your attention? I hope so.

I was thinking this morning, as I do a lot, about the perception of what schizophrenia is or isn't. I know that my son was diagnosed in 2011. I rarely think about how long ago that was. Four years that I have been trying to understand and research schizophrenia, medications, treatment options and other disorders that have cropped up along the way.

When I first started my research I had no idea what schizophrenia was. Honestly I didn't. I won't say that I hadn't been exposed to it or other disorders. Now that I'm more aware I can remember people or instances that now make more sense. People I knew that heard voices, not that I had any idea what that meant at the time. People who self-medicated. Kids in school that were in 'special classes' with behavioral issues. I had an idea about ADHD however I only knew this in the context of hyperactivity and that not everyone believed it was real. I guess we haven't come that far after-all. ;)

Now four years later and a lot of Googling I know a little bit about schizophrenia, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder, self-harm, borderline personality disorder and addiction, to name a few. I have an idea of the medications used to treat these disorders and what they are supposed to do. I can even quote some of the statistics although I sometimes confuse them... 1% of the population will experience schizophrenia in their lifetime. So 1 in a 100. 1 in 3 or 4 or 5, depending on who is reporting the statistic, will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. I wonder if I'm the only one that questions phrases like 'in their lifetime'?

I know what schizophrenia is not. I have read it so many times that I'm almost to the point of not reading any article that starts of by saying what it isn't. I'm not even going to state what it isn't here because if you have done any reading on it then you already know and if you haven't then I don't want to continue to perpetuate a stereotype that I think we should be beyond by now.

Then there is the dreaded 'S' word... And no I don't mean schizophrenia ;). Does it exist? Yes. However it's another prejudice that I don't want to give credence to.

I'm sure most of us have heard of The Law of Attraction. There is a saying that goes something like this: Energy flows where attention goes...

Why are we still giving these negative stereotypes and misunderstandings our attention?

I will elaborate on that question. When I first starting researching schizophrenia in 2011, like I said I had no idea what it was. I knew it existed but that's all. The first thing I read was what it wasn't. Does it matter that what I was reading was stating what it wasn't? I ask this because in my mind it still caused a connection of thought... Kind-of like: Why do people think that? So one starts researching the stereotype... Do you see my point?

Now my world may be small and it's gotten significantly smaller over the last couple of years, since I left my job and started centering my attention on... Well this... Mental health/illness and advocacy. I can only say that in my life I have not seen or dealt with many of the stereotypes that we continue to give power to. Like I said though, I know that my world is small...

Now that I'm a little more involved and perhaps even a little more knowledgeable of mental illness in it's many forms, I want to see a change... I want to help make that change... I want to do my part if I can to further mental illness awareness. Not the stereotypes.

Over the past couple of years I have watched as conditions like depression, anxiety, OCD and even bipolar have gained ground and are not as taboo anymore. I think this is awesome! I know there is some concerns over conditions like ADHD or bipolar being over diagnosed or fads... I think in time this will even itself out. At least I hope so. The good thing though is that they are being talked about. These conditions are not in the dark like they used to be. Schizophrenia is lagging behind...

Schizophrenia is one of the most severe and misunderstood mental illnesses. And it's not getting any better. I question my part to play in this. Until recently I didn't consider myself a mental health advocate... I received a notice from Mental Health Advocates United letting me know that they had added my Facebook page... I remember thinking: I'm an advocate!?

I suppose I am. Until very recently I have tried fairly hard to keep me separate from who I am as a blogger and who I am on the internet. I'm BarbieBF... So if you Google BarbieBF (or BarbieBFLove) other then Barbie's best friend and boyfriend ;) I do believe most other instances are me.

I have tried fairly hard to protect my son's privacy and in reality my own as well as my family. Just because I'm willing to put myself out there that doesn't mean others are on the same page. The trouble with that is that in some instances I limit myself and therefor my ability to advocate. I don't try to guest blog on certain sites because they want your real name. That is of course assuming they would consider my blog in the first place. I did an interview for Plus Us Too (Yes a shameless plug of me :)) yet I didn't want to be visible.

Sorry I know it seems like this post has gotten off topic but I'm getting there. I don't mind if those who know 'me' in real life know that I'm BarbieBF however I have tried to limit those who know me as BarbieBF knowing 'me'. So lately I have been questioning that. How can I truly stand up to the stereotypes and the 'S' word and advocate that schizophrenia is not something to be ashamed of if I'm still hiding behind my anonymity?

My name is Barbara Froude and my son Micheal is diagnosed with schizophrenia. I also have a daughter and her name is Amanda. They are both truly awesome and every day they make me proud and help to show me what is important.

Back to my original topic. I know that science is struggling to define exactly what schizophrenia is. My question though, is can we stop saying what it isn't? Can we stop perpetuating the stereotypes and instead try to highlight what we do know? It's a physical disorder. It's a thought disorder. It's symptoms can include breaks with reality. So many things we do know that could be used instead.

Yesterday I saw something that caught my eye and stuck so I created my own version:

Can we close the door on stereotypes and open the door to knowledge? Can we start pushing what we do know? Schizophrenia is NOT hopeless. Recovery IS possible. Can we bring schizophrenia out of the shadows and into the light? It's time!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. You can help spread awareness and show support by getting your own twibbon here: Twibbon


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  1. I agree 100% with what you said and how you feel about schizophrenia. I am a true paranoid schizophrenic and I don't want to be stereotyped anymore. I just want to be understood like any other mental disorder Schizophrenia-Mom's Journey.

    1. Thank you Robert for reading and for commenting. Hopefully I can do my part to help make this happen. <3