Schizophrenia is not a character deficiency. Rather, it is a mental illness born out of a physical malady.
It’s not fully understood when schizophrenia truly develops. Most psychologists say it’s in the middle of young adulthood while some believe it has always been within an individual, lying dormant until a psychotic episode erupts. Whatever the case may be, the manifestations of this illness, to whomever may be so unfortunate in developing them, dip their arrowheads in the poison of gripping depression before taking aim at their lives.
In the case of one individual I’ve spoken with (who shall remain anonymous), the voices came after other symptoms, abruptly, right before bed, in the dead of night—all in what seemed to him like an attempt to create another sleepless venture. “We’ve only just begun,” one voice declared, as if it were insinuating the prospect that these voices would be there to stay with him.
To this day, that person cannot say the voice was wrong, as he’s lived with them ever since—sometimes they’re benign and other times they’re sinister. Notice how I assign these voices the pronoun of “they,” a curious proclivity compelled by many people and its underlying reason, which I will get into a bit later.
Be these voices as it may, it might not be so much the voices that commit the greatest disservice to someone with schizophrenia. That corollary belongs to delusions, which can be so absurd in their nature and unshakeable in their foundation. For anyone who values the gift of reason, they’d know that the degradation of such faculties is truly heartbreaking, though modern medicine can help the issue dramatically.
For many, the hardest part of schizophrenia can be coming back down to reality—knowing that what was thought or said was not aligned with the beliefs in their lucid state. In many respects, after gaining normal clarity, patients with schizophrenia sometimes feel as if they have been wronged, not of their own mind but almost as if another entity within them has done the misdeed. Such a feeling, however, is a little illogical, no matter the illness.
Author Christopher Hitchens said it best on the personification of illnesses when describing his own struggle with cancer:
“When I described the tumor in my esophagus as a ‘blind, emotionless alien,’ I suppose that even I couldn’t help awarding it some of the qualities of a living thing. This I know to be a mistake: an instance of pathetic fallacy...by which we ascribe animate qualities to an inanimate phenomena.” (Hitchens Mortality, pg. 11)
I dare say I’ll go one step further than Hitchens and state that there can be different degrees of personification across every illness, and none can seem more personified than schizophrenia, a disorder in which the host has actual voices to combat. And my use of that word, “combat,” is precisely the point Hitchens was making.
This apparently is not an illness patients are trying to suppress but rather one that they are “fighting,” and family, friends, doctors, and therapists can all be reinforcements. In the end, though, an illness like schizophrenia truly is a battle with the self in the same way that the battle with cancer is. That being said, people with schizophrenia often have little help to achieve their goals. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, many people with schizophrenia are simply too embarrassed to announce their illness, thereby reducing potential support and contributing to an erroneous stigma.
Despite my philosophy, I don’t mind calling the treatment of this illness "a fight," as it’s one I know many can “win.”
I believe the voice mentioned earlier was correct in the way I’ve interpreted it. We’ve only just begun to spread awareness on mental health, and I’ll continue to pursue such a cause.