No, I still don’t believe schizophrenia is an illness! Many would say I still demonstrate poor insight into my illness for the declaration. That’s okay with me.
I received the diagnosis from a pony-tailed man wearing rodeo work boots with a decorative slab of leather along the base of his lace. He walked with a light stepping swag. He wouldn’t identify his role to me. I did know I was in the state hospital because I had been set up by the police who I successfully evaded for three days.
Staff denied my request for food before the interview. I was just waking up in the p.m. after my 4:00am arrival the night before. I hadn’t eaten since noon the day before when I’d only walked to mile ten. I was miffed because the paper with the list of police officers on it I had collected for my competency hearing was missing out of my pocket.
Three days earlier I had stopped at a gas station to refill. I prepared to dive under my car in the event of gun shots from the passing cars. And then I was in the mart. The police were standing by the merchant as I approached with a coke. Part of me was relieved to see them.
“Oh, did Mommy and Daddy say your brain chemicals are distorted,” mocked a state trooper in a falsetto. He looked like a social-working co-worker of mine back in New Jersey who use to pretend he was a CIA operative.
It was true I had a slight bone to pick with the Seattle PD for leaving law enforcement up to black market forces. I had been contracted to set up services in a notorious section 8 housing project within six months of moving to Seattle. I had received a significant verbal threat from an old friend from back east who said he had the power to harm me. I was on my way to Canada to seek asylum. I had leaked corruption to the press. I now believed these actions would one day be uncovered if they hadn’t already been.
I felt my face turn red from the comment. I was angry that my parents did want me hospitalized just as I had intuited on the road before I decided to head to Canada. My intuition was proving to be correct once again. I could feel myself grimace.
The police were on me and used pain tactics to get me to my knees. They bruised my wrists from handcuffs to prove their control. For the most part, I remained limp and passive.
I knew how to evade hospitalization. I assured the copper of this on my ride to the hospital in the calmest of voice tones. I kept my eye on the mileage. I practiced what to say to the quack doctor in the ER to get released.
The doctor was a reasonable man. I told him I was having memories of being sexually abused. As soon as he said I could go, I left abruptly out the glass doors. I had my life savings in the inseam of my jean. The game wasn’t over.
Outside the hospital at dusk a pack of the local PD floated toward me like rowdy ghosts and the ringleader asked me if I was Tim Dreby.
“Leave me alone!” I shouted. I didn’t identify myself. I braced for another attack, but it never came.
A day later, after testing out what I could and could not get away with, I feared retracing my steps to my car. I also feared taking a flight from the local airport. I knew I could not risk another hospital incident. Instead, I decided to walk from Helena to Butte Montana in one day. I had hiked fifty miles in a day before. But I hadn’t counted on the midnight temperature on the mountain pass. I surrendered to the state troopers who happened to be looking for me with their bright shining light before I made it to Butte.
The diagnosis from the pony-tailed man came after I finished this and other parts of my story. I told him I thought my parents were part of the mafia and were pulling the strings behind the scenes.
After I finally got a small portion of cold slop on a plate, I met my roommate.
“I am here to tell you that the Mafia really is after you,” said the Native American man who dressed in a hillbilly hat. “I am just a hillbilly, schizophrenic man in the hospital with a hundred and thirty IQ,” he said during my extensive interview of him. The friend who threatened me knew that I had a hundred thirty IQ.
“Did you know Marylyn Monroe died when Jack Kennedy stuffed cyanide up her ass,” he also said.
“So, I want to ask you a question, and this is important,” said the hillbilly with a pause, “when did the mafia to start following you?”
With a certain Alan Alda vulnerability, I said, “I think I was raised by a mafia family.”
The hillbilly looked uncertain. I wondered if I had said the right thing to the pony-tailed man.
The next day the pony-tailed man testified against me at my competency hearing. I was sentenced to a three-month incarceration.
I would be deeply wounded in the hospital. Being confined to a day room for two weeks was very hard. Getting my back reinjured by the cowboy security squad during a misunderstanding also hurt. I was known to be entitled because I tried to hold my workers accountable for not doing their job. As a result, no worker would speak with me. Even my psychiatrist took two months to meet with me. However, the neglect of the chronic unit was the worst. A year of nightmares would ensue.
When I got out of the hospital I took a greyhound and started over with $4,500 in assets. I only had one month of medication. Withdrawing off the medication caused me to lose the job I managed to attain at a daycare. I pounded the pavement daily for three months for any job including Walmart and McDonalds. I did manage to get an offer from a foster care agency, but I was afraid to take it with all I was going through.
My family agreed to intercede if I moved to the Bay Area and I obtained an arranged job at an Italian Delicatessen. Perhaps it seems ironic that this was the only job I could get. I went through a great deal of harassment, gaslighting, and persecution. Finally, when I returned to taking medication ten months later I was able to come out of the emergency state. I stopped being prejudice against the teens who were taunting me at the Deli. I realized that my family was not pulling all the strings.
Nineteen years later, I make a daily choice to continue medication to prevent the catastrophic loss associated with an emergency state. Maybe I haven’t made it clear: I still object to the word “schizophrenia” and the idea that what I go through daily is an illness. In fact, the latest reports define schizophrenia as more of a syndrome or neurodevelopmental condition than a disease. They even suggest that it is something that affects people across diagnostic divides something that I have argued for years (Vinograndoy, 2019, p.1.)
I do accept that some of my perceptive abilities are different than others. I do accept that they can lead me into an emergency state if I am not careful. However, I believe the word “illness,” was behind the treatment, I received at the State Hospital. There, I was trained to be controlled by the industry. No one would let me talk about my experiences. I was forced to suppress them even when aspects of them were one hundred percent accurate. I was not encouraged to learn from others. The hospital only prepared me for poverty and to be abused in a local board and care.
I continue to perceive that many people who believe that schizophrenia is an illness internalize treatment that can communicate such negative forecasts.
Turns out the outcome of my journey didn’t coincide with the “sick,” mainstream delusions associated with schizophrenia. I’d read those delusions in school where the twin studies proved the genetic component and there was a noted progressive decline that would get worse and worse and result in brain damage. Turns out twin studies weren’t so reliable, and abuse results in brain damage, not the syndrome which is more an expression of neuro-diversity.
Even if the latest research and I are wrong, and the illness causes brain damage, how was I able to endure some harsh conditions in the community, resume working and eventually passing licensure exams in spite of my learning disabilities? For six months I had to bike twenty miles a day, take the rails for an hour each way to a wealthy suburb, and work in the belly of the beast to prove to my mafia family that this was not my destiny.
Now I am a licensed psychotherapist on an outpatient psychiatric unit.
Eleven years ago, I heard about the hearing voices network in Europe, and started to run professional groups in which I disclosed my lived experience with “schizophrenia.” I learned to use my experiences to facilitate storytelling and reflections in group therapy. I have found doing this in a group transforms what was once terrorizing, maddening, and unspeakable into something that can provide insight and inspiration to help others.
Furthermore, there are many details, coincidences, and evidence that I was in fact being monitored in ways many might not think possible. There are also many extremely oppressed people who share experiences of being monitored to which I relate. Such experiences include voices, disassociation, viewing bizarre television scenes, having an apartment ransacked, secret service badges, receiving job related mail that was broken open, being tailed by police officers, and oh so much more.
I may not have all the answers to all the questions I have, but, finally, I know I am not alone. Knowing this is such a relief!
Vinograndov, Sophia, M.D., “Cognitive Training for Neural System Dysfunction for Psychosis Disorders,” Psychiatric Times, Vol 36 Issue 3, March 29, 2019.
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