Trigger warning: This article focuses on schizophrenia and all that it entails, including delusions and hallucinations that some readers may find mildly disturbing. Please tread carefully.
This issue’s column is focused on my disability. I want it to be clear that I’m just tired of being treated as less than human; hence the title. When certain individuals find out about my disability and the nature of it, they tend to react in a way that makes their thoughts and internalized ableism clear: That person is crazy, They could hurt me, or even the worst of all- It’s like they’re not even a human being.
This sadly common and ignorant train of thought no longer makes me particularly angry when it takes this disgusting shape- and I’m not even very sad anymore, either. Instead, I kind of feel simply finished with such stigma, in an exasperated sort of way. I don’t like dealing with it, but if I don’t advocate for myself and those that are also on the schizo/psychotic spectrum, I fear that no one else will.
In case I didn’t make myself clear enough, I’m going to rephrase: I don’t particularly like to talk about these issues because it’s, at times, traumatic to deal with. It’s DIFFICULT to put myself out there like this. Regardless, I do it out of a sense of duty or obligation. I have this wish— a strongly passionate and fiery desire to transform this ugly, infectious stigma on people like me into something beautiful.
I want this shame thrust upon us to metamorphose into honor. I should feel so very proud of myself for being schizophrenic and being capable of dealing with it. But instead, I feel intense under layers of self-deprecation, and repulsion at myself each time I hear mumbling that can’t be there and sense fear. Every time I feel thousands of insects crawling on my skin that aren’t there, I feel disgusted with myself. How dare I allow this to bother me? “Normal” people wouldn’t even be experiencing this right now! I’m such a FREAK.
Of course, this is my own internalized ableism scolding me, and I recognize that on a higher level than I’ll any longer acknowledge these intrusive, self-deprecating thoughts, I don’t tend to accept them as “fact” anymore.
On the topic of ableism, it’s ableist to assume that just because I have schizophrenia that I’m a monster or stupid. You’d be surprised how many folks do just that. Going through any states of psychosis is scary enough for those of us that are on the psychotic/schizo spectrums.
We’re far more likely to BE attacked by people than to lash out at anyone ourselves. Statistics don’t lie. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/), “Persons with schizophrenia are undoubtedly at increased risk of becoming victims of violence in the community setting, with risks up to 14 times the rate of being victimized compared with being arrested as a perpetrator.”
To conclude, yes, I’m going to get frustrated when people assume I’m the violent or depraved one. I do not condone nor perpetuate violence unless if it’s for self defense, nor do I advocate for evil. I’m an adult, I act as such, and I deserve due credit. I’m not the one carrying out acts of violence; it’s people that are afraid and ignorant that attack people like me for “acting different or off.” I deserve to feel safe in public spaces, just like any other person. It’s a travesty that this even has to be said. The stigma on mental health is ridiculous, unnecessary, and deadly. It must be fought.
For more information on mental health, please visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s website, nami.org.