This month, I continue my "100 Individuals with Schizophrenia" interview series. Andy lives in Framingham, Massachusetts and is an In Our Own Voice presenter for NAMI-Massachusetts.
CB: First off, how old are you and when were you diagnosed?
AS: I'm 32 years old and I was diagnosed when I was 28. It was only a couple weeks after my positive symptoms appeared that I was diagnosed.
CB: Were you ever hospitalized?
AS: I was hospitalized for two weeks in New Hampshire. I used to work for a summer camp year-round up there. I was living with my now-wife and her friend who had her Masters in social work. The friend had taken me to a counseling center and they said I should go to the hospital. The next day I checked myself in.
CB: Within a week of getting sick you were put on medication.
AS: Yes, very quickly.
CB: How did the symptoms appear? Were they sudden?
AS: The early stage where I started shunning people happened years before. Working at a camp in a rural area I was the only one who lived there. I was on 200 acres by myself all year. I went into town only to go grocery shopping and rent movies.
CB: What were some of your symptoms?
AS: The actual delusions began with me remembering what had happened the summer before, and it grew from there. It got where I didn't eat, and I smoked four or five packs of cigarettes in one day.
CB: You've been in recovery four or five years now.
AS: Yes, but I had a relapse six months after the first hospital stay when I went off my meds.
CB: You felt you were doing well enough not to need them?
AS: I didn't understand my diagnosis. The psychiatrist had said schizophrenia in the hospital but I just couldn't believe it. He also said "depression with psychosis" so I held on to that term. I felt the depression was situational because I was living by myself for the most part.
CB: What happened the second time around?
AS: The camp I was working at had pushed me out of the organization so I had to find a new job and figured I'd be around people all the time so I wouldn't be depressed and didn't need the medication. My delusions were originally about past events, and my psychiatrist warned me it could spill over into current events. Everything around me was linked to it like a loudspeaker, and I assaulted one of my bosses at the store where I worked overnight.
CB: Tell me about the symptoms.
AS: I started remembering stories that later became delusions. All my thoughts followed a story line where I eventually believed I was a top agent in the CIA, and that I'd prevented a nuclear bomb from exploding at Logan Airport. I had to push my boss into the 18-wheeler truck because the president was coming and my boss was going to assassinate him.
CB: Were you jailed?
AS: No, I got the rare verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. They figured I was stable enough at that point because it was five or six months later that the trial actually happened. They determined I was stable enough not to need additional hospitalizations. That drove home the need to be on medication, and I don't know that I'd be where I am today if all that hadn't happened.