The story begins with Maurice going to the bank to make a deposit. He and a teller he knew were talking about me, how I’m doing and my medications. The teller who was helping him sympathetically asked what was wrong with me and he simply told her I’m bipolar. Her reaction was shock and terror as she gasped and exclaimed, “Oh my God, isn’t that like schizophrenic?”
Oh silly, silly woman. No, bipolar is not like schizophrenia. Schizophrenics have more psychotic episodes and are much harder to treat. Yes, silly woman, bipolar is like schizophrenia since they are both mental illnesses that people do not understand.
My only experience with schizophrenia is when I was in the psychiatric ward. The hospital put me in the schizophrenic wing due to lack of beds elsewhere and forgot about me. Oh, I’m use to it. People try very hard to forget about me as best they can. During my two days there my roommate spent every night ripping our room apart trying to find the voices that were too real for him to ignore, even though he told me he knew they weren’t. Here’s the amazing thing – he was a nice guy. I shared a small room with him for two nights, I spent two days on a floor full of “these people” and attended group discussions with them and yet, despite it all, I did not catch it.
I try not to judge her reaction, afterall, that’s what this blog is about – dispelling ignorance and educating from my perpective and experiences. People with schizophrenia can, and frequently do, suffer from a mood disorder. However, those with mood disorders are rarely schizophrenic.
Remember the Elephant Man when he exclaimed “I am not an animal!”, well, I’ve been called one many times (usually in the bedroom), but I am not one. Sure, I’ll take some empathy. Hell, I’ll take almost anything to get attention, but I’d prefer not to get pity. Even more, I’d prefer not to get fear. I just am a guy with a disorder like someone in a wheelchair, a speech impediment, has diabetes, or has lost an arm. Maurice doesn’t wear a mask and rubber gloves when around me, unless….oh, nevermind. The only thing infectious about me is my charming personality.
On the serious side. Schizophrenic’s do not have multi personalities. That is called dissociative personality disorder. To learn more about schizophrenia or bipolar, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is an excellent sight. Check it out.