The first and hardest step in my recovery was accepting that I had an illness. After my first hospitalization I was still half convinced that people I knew were aliens (yes, the “take me to your leader” type of aliens). Despite this belief, I continued my life with school, friends, and everything else. I took my medication because my doctor ordered it, but all the while I considered my stint in the hospital to be a single episode and not part of a larger illness.
When I was away at college, I stopped taking my medication and stopped seeing my doctor, and there was no one to encourage me to do these things. Sure enough, I became increasingly psychotic within a few months and I was back in the hospital again. This time I thoroughly believed in my delusions, and when I was asked questions about my condition I gave all the right answers: “No, I am not experiencing hallucinations” (the voices were real) and “No, I am not experiencing delusions” (my psychotic beliefs were based on reality).
The hospital discharged me after just a few days, while I was still acutely psychotic, and I remained that way for months afterward. I never took medication. One day, I was online, reading articles, when I stumbled across a person’s account of their own illness. While reading this account I had a revelation: this person had the same thoughts as I did and they had a very real disease called schizophrenia. I slowly began to admit to myself that we shared this chronic illness and it soon came to me that I needed to do something about it. I needed the medication the doctor had prescribed but I was hesitant to start taking it. It was hard to accept that I needed to take responsibility for attending to my condition. It wasn’t until my on again off again girlfriend gave me an ultimatum–either I took my medication or she would stop seeing me–that I eventually gave in and took it.
This was my turning point–I got better and better–and while I still had the hallucinations and delusions, they became less and less pronounced. The voices slowly lowered in volume and the delusions lowered in frequency. Since then I have not looked back. I take medication every day and go to therapy. My healing seemed to be a two step process: I first had to be convinced that I had an illness and then I had to be encouraged to do something about it.
In retrospect, I feel that my experience with hallucinations and delusions is shared by many schizophrenic individuals, and if they could be exposed to others’ accounts of the illness, then they could also begin the process of healing.