“Hey, I’m Rachel Star, Schizophrenic!”
That’s how I start all the videos I make about mental health. If this had been a movie, I would have just ruined the twist for you. You know three-fourths through when we find out the main character is really crazy and she’s been imagining the whole thing. GASP. Or the obsessive stalker killer needs to have a motive, so let's just say they have “schizophrenia” because it sounds scary and has a “z” in it.
Sorry, there is no dramatic plot twist with me. In fact, me being a schizophrenic is the beginning.
I grew up seeing monsters, hearing noises in the walls, my name being called, indistinct voices from other rooms of the house - like a radio left on, caught between channels. We grow up hearing about “monsters in your closet” and “monsters under your bed.” As a child I thought that’s what people were talking about.
I grew older and at church the pastors preached of demons and angels, so I thought that’s what the monsters must be. If I hear this every Sunday then everyone must see them. It wasn’t until high school that I made a comment about the monsters to my friends and they looked at me like I was crazy. That's when I realized I was alone.
I didn’t bring it up again until a year later, at a post-high school Christian training center. I had deteriorated even further. I was severely depressed, cutting myself head to toe, hitting my head against the wall, and consumed by the hallucinations. Desperate, I went to the counselor on campus. He jumped to get me help right away by … giving me an exorcism (something I would not speak about again until this past year, 15 years later). Spoiler alert, it did not help and made things a lot worse for me, as now I clearly was choosing Satan over God.
And again I didn’t bring up my hallucinations for another few years. Admitting you have a problem like hallucinations or delusions or compulsive urges to do bad things to yourself can be very scary - mainly, because of how people will react. I spiraled further out of control and in my early 20s finally went to a few doctors and was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
What came next was years of medication roulette - cycling through antipsychotics and antidepressants, trying to find something that worked. And we would, but after a few months my body would adjust to the medication and the doctors would have to up the dosage as high as it could go until it no longer worked. Then on to a new one.
At age 23 I had electroconvulsive therapy. While it is not for treating schizophrenia, it helped lift some of my deep depression and with that went my paranoia. This made my schizophrenia much easier to manage. My hallucinations were still there, but I wasn’t as scared of them.
I’ve spent the last 10 years trying everything under the sun to help my mental issues. I no longer take antipsychotics, not because I am against them, but because they don’t work on me. I’ve done tons of therapies, tried changing my diet every which way, tried meditation - which for me makes my hallucinations much worse. The past few years people like to bring up crystals: “Do you think healing crystals could take away your schizophrenia?” Not unless I jam it into the side of my head.
My monsters are always just here. There is one that has been around the past few months. He looms over me. I feel him hanging above me as I write this. I call him “Loomy.”
I hallucinate about 90 percent of the time now. I track it. I take note of which hallucinations/delusions pop up at what times. Do certain medications make them worse or better? Seasonal changes? My period? I lose grip with reality easier around my period. Stress? I work to manage them.
All the while they sit in the corner. They stare at me never blinking, calling my name, scratching in the walls. I hold conversations at work with people as I watch their eyes slide down their face. I sat on a four-hour flight the other week with a monster coming out of the seat in front of me. I kept my eye on him but never once reacted. I’ve gotten good at not reacting.
If this was a movie we would be nearing the end, but it’s not. This is still the beginning for me, I’m still Rachel and I’m still a schizophrenic.