Schizophrenia

As I’ve said with my last few posts in this little series, I spent a lot of time on http://www.mind.org.uk to try and understand Schizophrenia as a condition – I have no personal experience with Schizophrenia so I hope I have given it the justice and respect it deserves. Like the others, this was part of a creative writing assignment at university that I thought was worth a post. Hope you enjoy reading!


Schizophrenia is feeling lost. I’m lost inside my own reality. I can’t keep track of the truth anymore. There are a sea of voices fighting for my attention, but I don’t know who I can trust. There’s a voice, the most common voice, that tells me to do disturbing things. Things I don’t want to do. This voice tells me I don’t have a choice. Do I have a choice? There’s another voice, a soft, feminine voice, that offers words of comfort, reassurance and love. Is she real? I can hear laughter and singing, screaming and crying. Constant whispers. Soft murmurs. Shrieks of terror. Howling. Sobbing. Sighing. Acceptance.

Schizophrenia is a blend of good days and bad days. On the good days I feel grounded. I can sort through the voices and make sense of the truth.

There are more bad days than good days.

On bad days I retreat to the back of my mind, the only place where I have a chance of escaping the cruel tongue of the voice. I lose myself for hours, clinging to this feeling of safety. The voice calls to me, searching, but I travel further and further inside myself. My body is no longer my body, but a hiding place.

Eventually, though, our game of hide and seek will come to an end.


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Paranoia

My previous posts in this little series (Depression, Panic, Anxiety, Anorexia and OCD) all contain elements of personal experience. I did a little research along the way, but, for the most part, these are very personal accounts of how these disorders can manifest themselves within an individual.

This post, however, is a little different. I have experienced mild feelings of paranoia as a symptom of anxiety, but I have no personal experience with the disorders most closely linked to paranoia. I’ve done research on http://www.mind.org.uk to try and gain as much of an understanding as I possibly can without experiencing these conditions firsthand. This post is simply a product of curiosity, research and a creative university assignment.


Paranoia is the groping of a dozen hands. They rip my clothes from my body and tear through my skin. They gouge through my flesh with their fingernails, exposing my every thought and desire.

I know they’re watching me. They think I have no idea, but I’ve always known. They’re everywhere I go now. I saw one, just this morning. I was waiting in line for my coffee when I saw her. The teenage girl behind the counter, with thick black liner and a nose ring, and dark roots giving away her natural colour. The dark bags under her eyes highlighted the bored look on her face, and her gaze always landed back on the clock on the far wall. She took my order and asked for my name. I couldn’t let her know that I know. I had to ignore my rapid heartbeat; trembling fingers; laboured breaths. If I gave her a fake name would it give me away? They can’t know that I know, so I gave my real name. I walked to the opposite end of the counter and waited for my drink. I looked at every face in the café, trying to work out who I could trust. There was a man, maybe in his early thirties, that kept glancing in my direction. He wore a shirt and tie with the sleeves rolled up. Smart yet casual. We made eye contact, and he smiled. Could I trust this man? He looked away and took his phone from his trouser pocket, his fingers moving quickly across the screen. Rapid heartbeat. Trembling fingers. Laboured breaths. The corners of my vision began to blur and all I could focus on was the phone in his hand. Who was he texting? I frantically looked from customer to customer, desperately searching for answers. A young woman sat alone, shredding a napkin with her fingers. Her gaze alternated between her phone, resting on the table next to a mug of coffee, and the door. Her phone screen lit up with an incoming message. Rapid heartbeat. Trembling fingers. Laboured breaths. The man was texting her. They were talking about me.

My name was called. It was the teenage girl again. I looked from person to person; from the teenage girl, to the smart yet casual man, to the young woman that sat alone. They were working together. I couldn’t let them know that I know, so I reached out with a quivering hand and accepted the drink. The teenage girl told me to have a good day.

I was back on the street when I realised. The teenage girl told me to have a good day. Did she know something? Was something going to happen today? I glanced at the takeaway cup in my hand. She must have put something in my drink. I didn’t see her make it. It’s the only plausible explanation for the glances, the texting, her asking for my name. Rapid heartbeat. Trembling fingers. Laboured breaths.

I binned the drink without taking a sip. They think I have no idea, but I’ve always known.


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OCD

OCD is an uncontrollable urge. The urge takes over my entire being. I can feel it in my fingers, through my chest, down my legs and in my toes. An urge to flick switches and to check door handles. Every number must be even, unless it’s a multiple of five, then I can relax. I have to sit on the left side of the room, sleep on the left side of the bed, and walk on the left side of my companion. Such little things, simple tasks, that take over my mind and body. I need to do it. Bad things will happen if I don’t turn the tap tight enough, or lock the front door, or if I leave the volume on twenty-three.

OCD is an ambush of troubling thoughts; a mental whirlpool of worry, doubt and fear. Intrusive thoughts take up residence in my mind. I desperately try and evict them. I beg for them to move on, to find another home, but they threaten me with violence. I’ve tried changing the locks and barricading the door, but they always come back.

OCD is time. Hours and hours spent fixing my obsessions and giving in to my compulsions. Hours wasted. I don’t leave the house because it’s easier to keep the door locked. I don’t wash my hands so I don’t have to check the tap. I can’t leave the oven on if I don’t turn it on in the first place. I don’t have to live through the odd numbers if I stop all clocks on the even.


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Anorexia

CONTENT WARNING: Eating disorder/Allusion to self harm


Anorexia is skin and bone. It’s the pull of a tape measure around my waist; chest; thighs; neck. It’s being tangled in a web of measurements with no way out. The tape measure snakes around my throat, over my mouth, and across my eyes. I see, breathe, smell, touch and taste the numbers. Without them, I am nothing. I pull tighter and tighter but it’s never enough. The number is never small enough. The tape measure cuts through my skin, chafing, burning, but its never tight enough. There is too much flesh. Always too much flesh.

With a shallow breath I step on the scales, not wanting to look at the figure at my feet, but not being able to focus on anything else. The number is everything. It’s not small enough; never small enough. I take off my underwear, but it’s not enough. Desperation takes over, and I grab at my hair. I take the small pair of nail scissors from underneath the sink and cut. I cut away pieces of myself, willing the number at my feet to shrink.

Anorexia is a friend that I never wanted. It’s a friendship built on manipulation, lies and insults. It’s poisonous. She whispers in my ear, morning, noon and night; when I step on the scales or wrap the tape measure around my flesh. Her acidic words burn through my self esteem until there’s nothing left but ashes. I long to build new friendships, but I can’t separate myself from her. Through every hurtful word, every sneer, taunt, and gibe, my obsession with her grows. She consumes me, and I let her.


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Anxiety

Anxiety is nausea. It’s a churning in the pit of my stomach. A tingling sensation seeps across my fingertips and through my toes. They are completely numb. I take slow, deep breaths, in and out, in and out, trying to calm the urge to vomit. My head pounds with the same rapid rhythm as my heartbeat, and I grit my teeth against the pain. Sweat starts to drip from my pores, coating every inch of my skin in moisture.

Anxiety is chaos. I can’t think straight. Every thought I have is quickly replaced with another; quick flashes of colour, sound, dread. So many thoughts try to fight for my attention. Thick black chords of jumbled words, phrases, memories, and predictions weave themselves around me. Friends making plans without me. Stumbling over words. Injections. Waiting in the airport. Driving too fast along the motorway. Public speaking. Being late for work. Being too early. Forced into awkward conversation with a stranger. Phone calls. Bad things will happen. Self-doubt. Embarrassment. Loathing.

Chaotic thoughts swirl around my brain, and I’m helpless to stop them. I brace myself against the wall in front of me, trying to place enough pressure on my palms to distract me from the onslaught of thoughts. I focus on the pain, and let it ground me in the present.


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Panic

Panic is hands in my hair, gripping so tightly my roots ache. It’s the sound of sirens; a sharp pain in my ear that I can’t escape. It’s clutching my head in my hands as everything around me heightens; sharpens. Lights are brighter, clearer, and yet black spots corrupt my vision. I can feel the blade above me, dangling precariously by a thread. Waiting. Anticipating. The knife will drop, and all I can do is wait for the sharp blade to pierce my skin.

Panic is out of my control. Someone else holds the scissors that will cut the thread and release the knife. I beg and plead, over and over, please don’t cut the string. The response is manic laughter, an insane cackle, and the threatening snip, snip, snip of the scissors.

Panic is fight or flight. My lungs burn with need. I need more oxygen, more air, or I have no chance of escaping the blade that threatens to end me. Survival mode is triggered, and every part of my mind, body and soul is fixated on escape.


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Depression

Depression is drowning. I open my mouth to scream, yet no sound escapes me. Water floods my lungs and burns my chest. Every cell in my body is screaming at me with the instinctive need to take a breath, but there is nothing to inhale but water. Depression is suffocating. I try and escape, but which direction will bring me to safety? I reach for something, anything, that will pull me out from the water and allow me to breathe. I find nothing. I am surrounded by people, all of them blurred and distorted by water. They call to me, voices muted; muffled. I can’t make out the words. I hope and pray that someone will reach into the water and drag me out, but the weight of the water forces me further and further, deeper and deeper.

Depression is numbing. No motivation. No inspiration. No reason. Simple tasks become mountainous chores, and most tasks are ignored completely. Depression is dirty. I have grease in my hair, and oil on my skin. My bedroom floor is littered with clothes. My room is decorated with half empty glasses and half eaten plates. A pizza crust from a pizza that I can’t remember eating is speckled with green. I sort through my memories, trying to remember, but I can’t. Monday blends into Tuesday, then Wednesday, and I’m still in bed. Time escapes me but still each second carries the weight of an hour. Life is filmed in slow motion. Shackles adorn my wrists and ankles, and the weight of them makes minuscule movements feel impossible. I can’t concentrate enough to remember what I’m supposed to concentrate on.


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