My diagnosis did not shock me: I was quite intrigued by it and accepted my diagnosis straight away. It gave me something to work with and some understanding of my experiences! The most ‘negative emotional impact’ I experienced with my diagnosis was ‘mainly’ caused by others and not by myself and the fact I had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. I always believed I could deal with my symptoms and in ‘time’ live life successfully. I knew it was going to be a long hard journey and emotionally testing, to put right, what was wrong.
But, I was not prepared nor did I ‘foresee’ the ‘devastating emotional impact’ others would have on me, which caused me to become a recluse, very within myself, with a loss of hope and belief. Others only ‘fed’ the negative experiences of my diagnosis. The weight of ‘others attitudes’ towards my diagnosis was simply too much to bear, and caused great harm in my recovery process. The emotional impact was deep and soul destroying, and could have been such a different experience with correct support, correct understanding and respect towards the man I strive to be!
Psychiatric impact: The diagnosis of schizophrenia did not disturb me at all. I was quite fascinated by it. At first, I did have the normal misconceptions which were based on media portrayal but I knew I was not that type of man. I was very quickly disturbed by the attitudes and words from the psychiatric team and the horrendous stigma faced. It was automatically assumed I would be a threat to society; this was based on me feeling angry and not based on any evidence. It was automatically assumed, it was likely I would never work again, and I had to accept it was likely I would never be able to overcome my diagnosis and live a meaningful life. Questioning this belief and stating the psychiatric team were wrong, was presented to me as a symptom of my condition in itself! I can only describe the attitudes I faced from these ‘so called’ professionals and experts of my diagnosis, as horrendous!
There was no talk of recovery, no talk of hope; basic needs as a fellow ‘human being’ were not offered.
The attitude I have faced from psychiatry, has been a very devastating experience relating to my diagnosis. The emotional impact of being treated as a threat to society, and being told I had to accept I may never work again or recover, has been devastating. And still affects me to this day. I have often said, if I needed talk therapy for anything in life, it would be about how I was treated and viewed by psychiatry. It has been that damaging for me!
I felt my true identity had been taken from me and replaced with the identity of a man I did not recognize.
As an example of their automatic stigma and negative attitude: In 2003, I made a very serious complaint against my psychiatric nurse. As soon as I complained, the psychiatrist told me to increase my medication as I was becoming paranoid and deluded about my nurse. I have evidence in my written notes.
The net was closing in very quickly. It was automatically assumed I was delusional about my nurse, without listening to my concerns. I had the sense to involve others outside, who could support me, including my local MP. In time, I won a full apology from the primary care trust, but this would not have been achieved without the involvement of my local MP.
The very negative care and attitude from psychiatry was devastating in many ways. The treatment and the stigma, the ignorance and the lack of respect that was enforced upon me, I can only describe as ‘emotionally soul destroying’
Impact of self stigma: At first, I began to self stigmatize and believe maybe psychiatry was right? With such negative media portrayal and such negative attitudes from psychiatry, society and my family, I believed maybe I was deluding myself and I convinced myself I could not achieve much beyond coping with my diagnosis. I became very housebound, very within myself, trying to control severe depression, internal negative voices and felt very bad that I was feeling angry with life.
I also had to deal with ‘terrible’ side effects of medication. I started to believe, this is it, my life, and according to many, it was not going to get better!
I feel it was the weight of negative attitudes from others, that caused me to self stigmatize. I was becoming what was expected of me and broken and without hope because no one could see the man I truly was.
People seemed to understand me more if I was ill and acted within the expectations of severe mental illness!
Family impact: Only until recent years have I gained further contact with my family. It still seems somewhat impossible to talk with them fully about my life and my diagnosis. During my darkest depths, I had no family to turn too. They simply did not want to know me and were ashamed of my diagnosis. I had no contact with them for 10 years. ‘They did not want a ‘nutter’ in the family’ was one very close family member’s words.
It was difficult to deal with and I often thought to myself, if my family can not understand and respect me, why should anyone else want to understand and respect me? It was very difficult and saddening not to have my family show understanding or support but it had not been there for years. So, although I needed my family, I was not shocked by their behavior towards me.
In time, I began to try and put myself in their shoes, looking for reasons why they acted this way. I began to understand my family history, and look at what my diagnosis may mean to them?
I reminded my family they are imperfect, I reminded them the family does have mental health issues, mainly on my mothers side, which are hushed up, not been dealt with and considered as weak for expressing those issues. They were and are scared of my diagnosis! It’s a bit too close to the bone, and sometimes rather than wanting to deal with issues, it is natural instinct to push that issue away, as far as it will go, out of sight!
So I started to view my families’ reaction towards me, as a basic survival instinct. As an animal will often ignore and outcast another animal that is ill or injured, in case that animal may jeopardize the pack! And that’s what I did; I jeopardized the reputation of my family.
Impact from society: My diagnosis has caused me to withdraw from society and has stopped me going to events or social gatherings, where I may have to talk with people. It is natural when you first meet with someone, to ask what they do for a living and so on. I do not want to lie, or mislead anyone, but it seems sometimes impossible to tell people I have a past diagnosis of schizophrenia. I do not blame people, we are all influenced by the media, and it is such a huge tool for knowledge, often very wrong knowledge and wrong knowledge about psychosis and schizophrenia has played its part in widespread stigma.
It is very natural for us to push away and turn our backs on anything we may fear. Schizophrenia and mental illness can represent losing control of life and of ourselves, our own minds and it can happen to anyone!
I have experienced stigma from society and heard many horrific stories from others who share my diagnosis, from having dog faeces posted through the door, petitions to get people who share my diagnosis removed from a neighborhood, to being beaten up for having a diagnosis, all added to the conclusion I should just stay behind my own door and keep quiet. I changed my outlook later in life, when I decided to try and make my own stand, as I began to find the stigma and misconceptions towards my diagnosis unacceptable. Nowadays, I am far more open, but not with everyone. I just try my best to judge who I can tell and who I cannot!