Being a paranoid schizophrenic might sound kind of easy. After all, I don’t go to work . I live with my parents at the age of 26. I don't have any social responsibilities, and I receive benefits from the government.
But none of that makes my life any better, and in many ways it makes it a hell of a lot worse.
I can’t work for many reasons. One is that very few people want to hire someone who is so demanding without even meaning to be.
I can’t sit with a window behind me. It’s not safe. What if someone walks up to the window and shoots me? What if someone smashes the window while I’m sitting in front of it?
On a less dramatic scale, but one almost equally as terrifying to me -- what if someone sees me sitting there and just stands there, watching? Waiting for me to get out so they can follow me, hurt me, kill me? That’s what the voices tell me. Sometimes I don’t know what else to believe.
I’ve heard voices constantly since I was about 18 or 19. I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was still in secondary school, but I didn’t hear the voices then. I wasn’t diagnosed until I disappeared one day, avoiding college, in order to throw myself under a train.
Something stopped me, but it wasn’t the last time I tried to kill myself. Since then, I’ve self-harmed thinking I could cut more deeply than I could bring myself to. I’ve taken overdoses. I’ve gone up to the top of multi-story car parks with the intention of throwing myself off. In the end, the will to live is stronger than the urge to self-destruct.
There are many frightening things about being a paranoid schizophrenic. The voices I hear inside my head are the most constant, but there are other, non- psychiatric parts of my life that scare me just as much.
I live with my parents because I can’t be trusted to live alone; nor would I feel safe. I can’t cope in crowds or at places where there’s a lot of noise, so I can’t take my four-year-old niece to a fun fair, or go to concerts.
I don’t go out much, so my parents bear the brunt of looking after me, and while I can (thank goodness) be responsible for my personal upkeep, I know the stress is aging them faster than nature ever could. I’m terrified the stress of dealing with my illness will kill one or both of them sooner rather than later. Not just for selfish reasons (what would I do without them?) but because they’re my parents.
Sometimes I think I should kill myself so that I don’t have to live without them.
I have exactly two friends. One has a similar illness to me. He doesn’t leave his house, and we talk on the phone when we both feel it is safe to -- which is not often. My other friend is the same age as my mother. I met her in respite care, and while she is funny, quick, witty and wonderful, she lives over 100 miles away. I can’t go and stay with her. I’m too afraid.
Besides which, the combination of both of our mental illnesses in one house would probably lead to us killing one another or ourselves if exposed to each other for too long. The only social activity I get is by talking to people I play games with online.
Sometimes I have visual hallucinations: I see dark shadows, a black skeletal creature that drags itself along the ceiling, malicious dust that coats whole rooms (I don’t know what it does, but if I breathe it in or touch it, something bad will happen), swarms of flies that dart around out of the corner of my eye, black figures that flicker at the periphery of my vision and disappear when I turn to look at them. The walls have been known to pulse and change color.
But that’s not all the time. I’m heavily medicated and in theory that holds the worst of these visions at bay. I know they’re not real, but try telling yourself that when the most terrifying creatures you can imagine are in front of you.
Still, despite how it might sound, it’s not all doom and gloom. I have an amazing family. They support and help me through everything. I also have a great support system from my local hospital’s mental health team.
My online friends, the few who know this story, say they are sad for me because I never experienced my early twenties in the way everyone else should. I’ve never been to a nightclub or held down a real job for long, I don’t have friends, and I live with my mum and dad at an age where most of my old school friends have children and spouses of their own.
Still, I’m only 26. I have to hang onto that. I have to believe the best years are in front of me.