I had dreams, routines, hopes, but somehow my life was a chaos. The echoes of my hopes and dreams were not as persistent as my auditory hallucinations. I did not know who to talk to and at that time, I did not even know that this is one of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Abnormal Psychology is not a subject I learned when I was nine years old. I did not miss any classes, but I missed homeworks. My head was exhausted, and my heart carried a weight that never detaches from me. I became tired of this constant paranoia that attacks me without mercy. It stops when I sleep at night or when I nap. As soon as I gained my consciousness back, it will return to haunt me, to make me suffer for simply existing. Are our fears real? I never slept when the voices threatened me. We would like to think that reality is perceived through our senses when we are awake and fully conscious. These fears were mine. They were my reality; as real as the sound of the wind that echoes through your ears.
One day, I asked my uncle of what he would do if he had thoughts that tell him to do things. He said that it happened to him, but I cannot relate to his experience. The voice in his mind demands him to pull a hair of someone in front of him. Oh how I wish mine sounded like that. Mine threatens me to death. Mine told me to kill myself. Mine told me to jump from the third floor. Mine told me that if I look into the bird’s eye, I would die that day. Four years after the conversation, I learned that what he had was intrusive thoughts. There was something helpful that he shared to me at the time. He said that it is good to pay attention to whatever task I am doing. One thing at a time. Be aware of my diaphragm as it moves when I breathe. He told me to immerse myself to the task I have at hand. As a training process, I initiated more chores, specifically dishes. I washed the dishes with my hands and a sponge. I absorb all information I gathered from my senses. The smell of the lemon dish soap, the foaming sponge, its soft texture, the plate I just used to eat my dinner. I imagined that my toes were like roots that hold me, strong and steady. I found calm for a split second, but I felt it. When your heart is at peace, even for a split second, you would want to repeat it. For a split second, I was in my own little heaven. For a split second, my mind was befriending me. For a split second, my heart was free from the tormenting voices of terrors. I noticed not just one sound but five. My nose not only it detects one smell but three. I saw many colors, many of which came from the bubbles from the dish soap. I felt calm for another split second. Washing the dishes became my favorite chore. I always looked forward into it. Seconds became minutes. Minutes became hours and hours became days. Days become months and I have been free from these voices for 11 years.
TW: Description of auditory hallucinations, child abuse, mental illness
One and a half years after my grandmother lost the battle to breast cancer, I faced a subtle, un-diagnosed depression. I was nine years old. Being bullied at school and abused at home, I had no place where I could feel at ease. Household was stressful and school was no different. I had no access to competent psychologists nor social worker. I kept everything to myself. Before I knew it, my heart was grieving all day, every day. I got headaches, my energy was low, I had trouble concentrating. There was no break for this mysterious, persistent inner anguish. This tormenting ache in my mind and heart
My mind and heart were not at ease despite my prayers. I envied the weather above my head. There were no such thing as sunny days inside my head. Chasing positive thoughts felt like chasing the golden at the end of the rainbow. Where did my hopes go? What did I do wrong? I cried until I dried my tears.
I needed instructions, I needed guidance. I listened to my heart. It speaks. It speaks the language of terror and paranoia. The voice is subtle yet clear and commanding. I am committed to my heart. I am committed to the inner voice. I listen to it. It is fearful and it is threatening. Loving words were beyond its knowledge. Its motivation was safety. It echoes, do not look at the bird. The bird is a spy. You are being watched by secret agents. Your mirror has a camera in the back. The picture could be alive and attack you. Do not look to the left, or else you will die. Do not wear red shoes today, or else you will die. Never reveal me. Do not reveal me. You will die. You will die.
This narrative, these threats were unstoppable, and I was restrained. My individuality and sense of self were repressed. Instincts of survival was all I have left. In fact, it was the only skill I mastered during my puberty. I was scared to the phantom inside my mind, inside my heart, but I cannot articulate it. I do not know what it is called. I do not know what I was facing. Before I knew it, my heart becomes one of the sources of my suffering. My heart, my mind, they speak every seconds. Another second, another terror. I was not scared of ghosts; I feared my thoughts. I feared them to death. I cannot run away from them; I cannot cover my ears to shut them up because they were inside me. Despite leaving all the lights on, the voices remain present and persistent. I had a phantom inside me that became a half of me. I do not have depression; my heart became the depression itself. I was not happy; I only know how to look happy. I cannot choose to be happy; I can choose to pretend that I look happy.
After more than a decade of suffering from a chronic mental illness, she was finally brought to a psychiatrist in downtown. Her psychiatrist diagnosed her to be schizophrenic and prescribed her abilify as a treatment. This did not last long. There were no follow ups and no refills for her prescriptions. Mrs. Warden did not try any harder to provide sufficient treatment for my mother. My mother, as usual, isolates herself in her bedroom. She became unusually quiet, apathetic, and nauseous. I felt remorseful for her. She does not seem to be jovial at all.
What I know for sure was that the voices in her head was significantly reduced. Her younger sister does not like to communicate to her. I was ten when Mrs. Warden asked me to bring my mother food and her medication. I was instructed to wait until I see her swallowing her pill. It was very emotionally exhausting. I hated the task I was doing. Mrs. Warden would say, “she is your mother! You must take care of her’’. Every day, few times a day, I go upstairs to feed her and administer her pills. It was very emotionally exhausting but no matter how much I express my exhaustion to Mrs. Warden; she would not listen. At some point, it seems like her schizophrenia needs to be my responsibility, my obligation and no one else’s. Her nausea would get bad after she finished her meal. She would puke so loud and multiple times that this annoy Mrs. Warden. As the result, Mrs. Warden would go up to her and yell, shout, hit her.
Mrs. Warden was and is never seemed to care of the side effect of her oldest sister’s treatment. When my mother goes to shower, there were times where she vomited her foods. Mrs. Warden, being dismissive about the effects of the medicine, assumed and concluded that my mother has bulimia and that she is anorexic. She was not. In fact, she enjoys many sorts of foods. As the result, Mrs. Warden forced my mother to keep the bathroom door open when she takes showers to prevent my mother from vomiting her meals. She was forced to take shower and forced to do it with doors open. Mrs. Warden would supervise her to ensure that she does not vomit any meals she is given prior to showering. This led to tensions between the two. My mother, although schizophrenic, was aware of personal space and privacy. She felt exposed, she cried, she yelled in distress and frustration. I was not able to stop all of this. Mrs. Warden instructed me to go inside the bathroom and watch her shower. I saw my mother naked and showering and she asked me to ensure she clean everything in her. This routine was very painful to me. I was barely a teenager and emotionally developing, when I witness my mother being ridiculed while she was showering. Mrs. Warden never wanted to consider her oldest sister to be mentally ill. She thinks of her as someone who has bad intention and who is very annoying. Mrs. Warden has no mercy to her sister who happens to be my mother.