The following is an excerpt from “Dawn’s Story” published in the Winter 2014, NAMI VOICE:
“Mental illness sneaks up and hits you hard when you least expect it, knocks the wind out of you, beats you to the ground and leaves you wondering what happened.
“In the summer of 2001 my son Matthew graduated high school and was thinking about his future when he was struck by a serious psychotic episode, an almost complete break with reality. In Matthew’s mind, voices and distorted images haunted him. He because convinced that people were after him; shadow people followed him. He talked with the dead who lived under the basement stairs. My beautiful son was disappearing into that dark, terrifying nightmare called schizophrenia, and I was in a panic. My son was so very sick, and I didn’t know how to help him.”
Dawn found a Family-to-Family class where she received education, support, and guidance. Dawn states, “I was able to have an active, positive impact on my son’s care and future. I’ve become the mother my son who is living with schizophrenia needs.”
Schizophrenia is a devastating brain disease whose acute stage always involves a psychotic episode, meaning there is a complete break with reality. It is now evident that schizophrenia involves some fundamental alteration of the brain. A recent article concludes, (quote) “Schizophrenia is a disorder of brain circuitry, not some mysterious demon. Increasing evidence points to abnormalities that arise very early in life, probably before birth, which disrupt the normal development of the brain.”
The general public tends to confuse schizophrenia with “split personality” (which it is not), or with rational thinking that goes in opposite directions (which it is not), or demonizes schizophrenia as psychopathic behavior (which it is not).
Schizophrenia is a common brain disorder which affects 1 out of 100 people, typically striking them down in the prime of their early adult years.
The following are more specific symptoms from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), American Psychiatric Association, and Dr. Anand Pandya, MD NAMI. Two or more of the following symptoms must be present for at least one month: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, or negative symptoms such as decreased speech, lack of motivation, flat emotional responses, inappropriate crying, laughing or yelling, inability to relate to others. More significant symptoms include bizarre delusions, auditory hallucinations of hearing a voice providing running commentary or two or more voices talking to each other.
Other symptoms in the early stage include social withdrawal, decline in function, less attention to hygiene, bizarre behaviors, unusual rituals, suspicious, illogical beliefs, odd sensory experiences such as illusions(misinterpretation of a sensation such as seeing a shadow and thinking it is a monster or believing that you are hearing words in the midst of a radio station).
As the disease progresses to the acute phase, they continue exhibiting the early negative symptoms; in addition, they may become more anxious, irritable, agitated.
In the residual phase even with treatment, previous symptoms may continue to exist, but with less intensity.
For a list of books on depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia go to www.namisantaclara.org/books.htm. These books will aid in the patience and understanding needed to cope with the illness. Also search on “hope for schizophrenia” With treatment and education, there is hope for recovery.