4 Thoughts on Schizophrenia and Trauma

by Christina Bruni Patient Expert

This month I'm focusing on Schizophrenia and trauma. Here are some key things to consider:

Early childhood experiences can be traumatic.

Yes. I experienced childhood trauma. The neighborhood kids bullied me. My mother was verbally abusive toward me. At 13, I wore the same holey jeans all the time; I wasn't taking showers. In response, my mother took me to a psychiatrist, as if there was something wrong with me. My behavior was actually the reaction to the trauma; it wasn't the problem itself.

Remember, a child who is 12 or 13 is older, yet they're still too young to process their hardship in a mature, rational fashion. And because they're only a kid, they're not equipped to challenge their parents, to express to them how they feel about how their parents are treating them.

I firmly believe my breakdown occurred partly because I had spent my whole life up to 22 stuffing down my feelings and repressing the trauma I experienced.

For more on this, read my SharePost on love, loss, and schizophrenia.

Getting strapped in restraints in a psych hospital is a form of trauma that can cause PTSD.

Seek out help for managing your PTSD in a support group or with a private
therapist. Lobby your elected officials to outlaw the use of restraints, or to allow
restraints only for exceptional threats of self-harm to the person or to others on
the ward.

The diagnosis of schizophrenia can be a trauma too.

Read my SharePost on the stages of emotional response to trauma. Grieving and
mourning are necessary and natural responses to the loss of your former life.

Having insight that you're different can cause a type of trauma or pain.

Though a recent research study revealed this, I knew about this link in 2008 when I talked about it with a therapist. I'll always remember one thing he told me: to be high-functioning, you're aware of your difference, so this causes pain.
Whereas someone who is not aware won't think anything is out of place.

I use the image of a clear glass wall that separates a lot of people diagnosed with schizophrenia from others. We can often see what it's like on the other side, yet we can't move through this wall.

Read my SharePost on the triangle of mental health to see my approach to
creating a better life for yourself even though you have schizophrenia.

Suggestions on how to cope with these kinds of trauma:

Practice forgiveness.

Forgive your parents. Forgive anyone who's done you wrong. Forgive the illness for disrupting your life. You'll only remain stuck if you allow the other person or the diagnosis to have power over you.

Know that you have the right to be treated with compassion now.

I stopped being friends with a woman I had told about my childhood. While I knew her she kept verbally attacking me. Friends and lovers should understand and have empathy. You don't need to have emotional trauma in your new relationships.

Develop a fitness routine.

The one true way I started to heal my trauma was to develop a strength-training routine at the gym. As a result, I developed what I call "emotional spine": a strong backbone of self-support that helped me overcome the residual blues I used to experience thinking of my early trauma. There's a beauty and a benefit to using exercise to heal your body and your mind.

Related SharePosts on schizophrenia and trauma:

Why men have a harder time getting help for trauma, depression, or other illness
Five strategies for coping with hard times

Christina Bruni
Meet Our Writer
Christina Bruni

Christina Bruni wrote about schizophrenia for HealthCentral as a Patient Expert. She is a mental health activist and freelance journalist.