My Story Part I

    Titling something as “My Story” just seems pretentious and too simplistic, but that’s what this is. It’s my story. It’s not yours or anyone else’s. So I shall begin and begin I shall. Most schizophrenic life stories start in the late teens, maybe a little later for women. Beginning schizophrenia as a child is rare. We (myself, family, and my psychiatrist) aren’t sure if I began showing symptoms as a child or just had a very vivid and active imagination and mind. I hate (hate is a strong word)… I detest comparing symptoms or describing how I may have been affected by this disease prior to my actual break. I want to have at least part of my life to depict a modicum of normalcy. But, if I am to be transparent and keep my goal of working toward ending stigmas, some that I even hold against myself, I must share everything.

    Beginning at the beginning: As a small child, maybe around four years old, old enough to still have fuzzy memories, I began interacting with an elderly man while I was outside in my sandbox. He was amicable at first. He would walk up from the depths of the woods and talk to me. About what, I have no idea. He was a constant presence while I was outdoors. A year or so later, I suddenly became frightened of him. I don’t know if he became malevolent or I realized it wasn’t normal for me to be interacting with him. Nevertheless, it drastically affected my daily life. I no longer wanted to go outside. I would see him through the window; he would never step outside of the woodline. One night, I was watching the news and a “WANTED” picture came up for a man being hunted in a neighboring state, thus I dubbed my friend-turned-foe the “Carolina Man.” 

    *Funnily enough, my twin brothers, six years my junior, saw a man in the woods as well; both waved at the exact same moment as they passed a spot in the woods. When asked who they were waving at, they responded, “Butch,” my bearded uncle. When mom returned home, she called my uncle to see if he had been over in our woods, and he responded in the negative. Their description of the man was vaguely familiar- an older man, wearing overalls, a long beard. Seems like we might have a forest-dweller, after all.* 

    I have always had a very active inner dialogue. I was a very social teen, a bunch of crushes, and a few girlfriends. I will admit that I had some idea that I might not be handling my emotions toward other people the same as others. There were no grey areas for me. It was either “you’re my best friend” or “I’m doing my best to avoid you at all costs.” So, as I began to notice some things that were apparently not normal, I sought medical help. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety (what teenager isn’t?) and major depressive disorder. From that point on, I was medicated, and probably will be from here to infinity. 

    Not to brag, but I ended high school in the top 5 students. I was very goal-driven and grades meant a lot to me. I never felt very challenged, something that would quickly change as I entered college. As I speak on next time, the stressors and deluge of symptoms quickly led to changes in my personality and, eventually, a total shutdown. I look fondly back at my childhood, adolescence and teenage years, and early adulthood. I still have friends from that time period and cherished memories from family that are no longer with me. The emotional, tumultuous years to come affected me greatly. More on that next time.