If schizophrenia was a person, it would have been a distracting being. A face with distorted features you could never recognize but so familiar that putting a right name to it would give your head a trip. Psychedelic coloured skin; so blinding that reality would escape it and hide in a dark corner. Multiple mouths would talk, sing, and shout words extracted from the dungeons of your memories.
So very distracting. Since this person inhabited me, I would zone out multiple times a day. You might be sitting in front of me but I would be talking to the schizo. Understanding what he said, deciphering his codes, recognizing which face he had put on this time, laughing at his jokes pulled out of my happy times. I would probably not make any sense because all the while you were asking me why was I staring at you, I hadn’t caught a word you spoke.
It should not have become an issue for everybody else that I was happy in my own world, enjoying the partnership of schizophrenia.
Then you had started complaining, why was I not doing the dishes or cooking food like everyone else. You had spewed mean words about how I had become a lunatic talking to myself, zoning out in the middle of conversations or of my incapability of completing simple tasks like taking a shower everyday. You had asked me to come to the real world.
I did try, perhaps gone unnoticed, telling the schizo to go away. But it worsened. How could have I explained to you that he didn’t want to leave? He had made a home inside my mind and was cashing out through my cognitive abilities.
By now, even I was fed up with him! His blinding skin that took me to extraordinary places had now become ugly and almost too much to bear everyday. It had started to burn my tendons. His dizzy features started shaping my worst nightmares. His voices had deafened my hearing. Where I could hear your loud music in the background, I wasn’t able to follow the lyrics.
I knew nothing. Slowly, I lost every bit of the anchors I had — my family, work, interest, happiness or sadness. Now, if you said a pill prescribed by a doctor could help, I would take it. It did work in silencing the schizo.
I slept more. Some days till 12 o’clock in the afternoon and sometimes I wouldn’t even get out of bed. I feared he’d make a reappearance. I’d hide behind my blanket and the false sense of security from the pills. Then, slowly my heart hollowed because the pill locked up my emotions in a repository. Schizo used to make me cry or laugh but now he was incubating. He was the one who had the key to the repository. My mind started developing new gaps because I couldn’t follow exactly what had happened yesterday or last year or when I was a little girl. Schizo barred me from entering the repository. The punishment was unbearable to the point that I missed him. I wanted him back.
Now, you complained why I forgot my chores or missed some deadlines. ‘Oh, you sleep too much.’
You gave me a pill that Schizo disliked. While he made it miserable for me, locking me up outside my emotions and memories, my next forced visit to the doctor didn’t feel any less than a punishment- like a child been taken to the counselor for acting out. What had ‘I’ done?
I became a medium. Schizo said, I conveyed and you heard only what he said. My voice simply got lost behind the voices.
How can you hear me?
Let’s see. You said I screeched and pulled a knife in defence when you asked me to get better. Maybe I didn’t like the way you put those words together and that really hurt me. Schizo hated it too. Hence, all I could see was a shape of my worst nightmare saying your words mixed with hate enveloping the atmosphere. I felt unprotected, scared and since Schizo always distracts me, I couldn’t see you are family.
Did you see my mood when you came to me? Was I smiling? Or was I already thinking too much? I don’t just think; I battle in every moment to keep Schizo away and separate all the voices to make sense. Probably, your words got mixed with my world of voices.
Listen to me. Listen to what I actually want to say. There could be times when I’m as tired as you are and distressed in my body and mind. Sit with me and ask me what I am hearing? Help me unlock my memories. It’s always a lonely journey to retain my being. Don’t forget me when I sit alone and whisper to myself. Your presence will help give me signs. I may be able to differentiate between those voices and your pleasant voice. Make it familiar to me. I want to trust you.
Namarita is a writer born in Tehri-Garhwal, studied in London, lives in Delhi and runs Bhor Foundation that encourages mental health awareness, inclusion and rehabilitation.