Living with schizophrenia
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14th Mar 2015

When deciding what to base my first blog post on, I really struggled to brainstorm. I had ideas but they all seemed far too big for my first post and I'm sure many of them would have already been attempted numerous times before. I considered writing an 'About Me' post but decided very few people actually care about what school I go to and my favourite food/colour. So I thought deeper into this idea of 'About Me' and thought whether I have had any significant or personal experiences I could share. Considering I am a fifteen year old girl, I surprisingly have far more significant and personal experiences than you would expect, probably enough to write a fairly interesting autobiography. When choosing the title for this post I pondered over the words 'schizophrenia' and 'schizophrenic'. You’re probably thinking ‘They’re so similar there is no need to ponder between two letters'. Well you're wrong. The term schizophrenic relates directly to the person with the illness, whereas the term schizophrenia relates directly to the illness alone. I chose the title I did because I live with my brother who is affected by schizophrenia, but he is more than his illness. I cope and struggle with the challenges his illness throws at me but they are not challenges from him, but challenges from his illness. I do not define my brother by his illness and therefore will not categorise him by telling you about the struggles of living with a 'schizophrenic' but the struggles of living with the illness ‘schizophrenia’. Confusing eh? The Oxford dictionary definition for schizophrenia is 'a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behaviour, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.' Some synonyms which go along with this definition include 'insane, insanity, moon-madness'. Not a great start for the misconceptions of schizophrenia. The term insane is associated with ideas of complete madness, which scares a large majority of people. I would like to point out that my brother is not insane or mad in any way, shape or form. He is merely just ill. I would say that one of biggest problems regarding schizophrenia is that the recipient usually looks just like anyone else, well and healthy like me and you. You would never detect that my brother is a schizophrenic, so when he has a blip and he acts unusual in public, people don't react like they would to someone obviously in a difficult situation i.e. somebody in a wheelchair, and people have a lot more fear and a lot less consideration for the fact that maybe there is a problem. So now I will get to the ‘living with schizophrenia ’. It’s hard work. I would like to focus mainly on my experiences of coping with schizophrenia rather than my brother’s personal battles of living with it as I don’t feel it is my place to speak about that for him. Since 2011 my brother has been continuously in and out of hospital for months at a time. Watching this from the age of 12/13 would have affected me much more if I didn’t have such a close, supportive family and so I can’t begin to imagine what these circumstances are like for less fortunate people. My brother is currently in hospital and has been for the past 7months. I would say that this particular occasion has been the hardest for me as I have had to watch and look after my brother during instances where he was having psychotic episodes which I found extremely distressing. I struggle to speak about this with my family and so they don’t realise the effects my brother’s situation has on me, although bringing them into perspective with the situation, my struggles are minor. I’ve always looked up to my brother and claimed him to be my ‘favourite’ (I have three older brothers). Watching the person you so dearly love, be mauled into a different person by an illness which is so out of your control, is one of the most heart breaking experiences I think one could encounter. This illness hit my family like a brick wall. It was completely unexpected and was a result of wasted teenage years spent smoking cannabis on a regular basis. When he is home, I struggle to converse with him as I don’t know what is appropriate conversation. I never know when the good days are going to end and the more troublesome days will begin. The illness is extremely unpredictable. Some days he will just stand and stare for hours on end and others he will shout and scream. Conversely there are days where I see my old brother penetrating through the illness, yet these moments appear in small quantities. Schizophrenia is the main topic when I come home from school every day, my mum constantly asks me to read books about it so that I ‘understand’, although I consider myself to have more understanding of my brother than the rest of my family. 7months of constantly having conversation after conversation about your ill brother really starts to become upsetting, so I prefer to stay out of the house as often as possible. Schizophrenia is a devastating and life absorbing condition which is often overlooked. I believe the reason my brothers battle against it is so difficult, is because of the age at which he was diagnosed. I hope this post has been of some help to anybody in similar positions or simply for information purposes. Maybe when you see someone who appears fairly normal acting out of character in the street, you’ll consider the hidden illnesses which could possibly be affecting them.

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