AllHumanHere invites people to guest blog about life with a complex mental health condition. In the first of a series, Mark Ellerby (pictured above) describes life with Schizophrenia…
When did you first realise you needed to seek help?
I didn’t realise I had an illness, but my family did and it was they who suggested seeing a doctor. I told them I was hearing things when there was nobody around and they recognised this. I did not know anything about it.
With delusions, getting medical help does not seem necessary. After all, the beliefs are real and not an illness. Relatives may spot the abnormal thoughts and behaviours, and in my case I had to be sectioned before I got treated.
How would you describe the experience of living with Schizophrenia?
For me the most difficult parts are the fear it causes and the emotional pain. To understand this you have to mention the symptoms. In my case I think the CIA are after me for causing 9/11. When they capture me they are going to torture me. As you might imagine, that is frightening but there is also the emotional pain thinking that I have killed all those people.
It is in the nature of Schizophrenia that symptoms like this are system overload so it tends to get buried in the subconscious but comes back to me in the form of constant anxiety and nightmares. Sometimes the realisation of being responsible for 9/11 really does hit me like a religious revelation and the terror makes me want to commit suicide to avoid the torture.
What made you want to write your series of books?
It has been important to me to do something meaningful with my life and not give up because I have an illness. That sense of achievement has helped me develop self esteem and I have been able to get to that level of the ‘Maslow tree’ to boot. My other reasons for writing are that it will contribute to the understanding of people who don’t know about the illness – in terms of what Schizophrenia is and overcoming the pervasive stigma that surrounds it. I think people need to be more compassionate and I think that feeling comes through in my writing.
What has helped you the most with living with Schizophrenia?
There are lots of things that have helped me cope. The medication stabilises me and prevents me getting worse. Living in a sheltered project has provided a refuge from the big bad world – there are staff to talk things over with and provide emotional support. Talking always cheers me up a bit.
The courses at day centres have given me a further sense of achievement and provide some distraction from my problems, not to mention making my brain work.
I have met best friends and partners in the mental health system and we can go out for meals together, on holiday and do all the things normal people do (despite been shut out of society). We have the financial freedom of controlling our disability money.
The most important help has been support and love I had from my family and this has been more profound than the rest of these factors.
What would you say to someone who is struggling with symptoms they don’t understand?
That is a difficult one. You cannot explain the delusional symptoms as an illness if it seems real. As for voices the idea of illness will help orientate people to what is happening to them. The main thing is to try all the different therapies not just taking tablets but cognitive and compassion-based theories are also available today.
Mark Ellerby is the author of a series of books about the differing stages of Schizophrenia. He aims to demystify, educate and raise awareness of the condition by writing of his own experiences in an inspirational and informative style.