Mental Health can be a daily struggle for many people and by sharing experience a greater understanding may evolve.
Tracey was 22 years when she first experienced the symptoms of her illness and was diagnosed shortly after. At the time she was studying accountancy in Hull. These Mental Health struggles have spanned nearly 30 years, this is her insight.
What is your Mental Health diagnosis?
I have been diagnosed as having Paranoid Schizophrenia.
How did you realise you were unwell?
One day, my day was like any other. I woke up one morning hearing voices, I thought I had tinnitus. Its still quite surreal how sudden the physical symptoms came about, although I was told that I had the illness since birth, it is believed exam anxiety was probably the trigger.
Can you please explain how this affects you?
Paranoid Schizophrenia can present itself in a couple of ways, I suffer with auditory hallucinations, I hear voices, usually the same voice. This voice tells me things that are very negative and if I am anxious the voices can get louder. One of my friends asked me what it is like. The best way to explain it is, if you imagine you are in a room and you have the tv on , the radio is blaring and people are chatting, scenario of complete noise and chaos is in my head. It’s exhausting.
Some of my friends suffer with visual hallucinations too but I am lucky mostly to only have deal with the one aspect.
What do the voices say exactly?
They tell me that no one likes me or I am worthless, its all very negative which sometimes can make me believe this is as real. In the past my voices have told me to hurt myself, I have taken a couple of overdoses in the past. I wasn’t trying to kill myself its just the voices told me to do it. It’s a very scary world at times but medications and social interventions help ease these symptoms.
What are the visual hallucinations?
Just seeing things that aren’t nice. I once saw rats once on my bed. At the time I thought this was real and very scary but luckily this has only happened a few times. You do believe what your eyes see, I suppose its like having a bad dream but you are not asleep and you don’t wake up from it, it’s very distressing.
What professional help do you get?
I have a wonderful psychiatrist who I see every 6 months. I also have blood tests every 3 months to make sure that I am not carrying too much toxicity in my blood from the medication..
Have you ever been hospitalised due to your illness?
Yes, when I was first poorly, which was when I was up in Hull studying for my accountancy exams. I spent 9 weeks in a mental health unit. I was then transferred down to Hertfordshire and remained in hospital for 9 months which was how long it took to ascertain the correct dosage of medication. I was also harming myself so they needed to reduce any danger I posed.
What was this experience like?
To be honest it was a very scary and a very unsettling time in my life. I was away from my family and friends and confined to a ward where I found other patients were scary. I had visits from my family every day but its like being in another world. At the beginning I was so unwell and medicated to fully understand my surroundings. I appreciated all the help I received but I would never want to go back and don’t intend to.
Are you able to work?
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to work although I completed Princes Trust whilst in my late 20’s. After that I became a volunteer Youth Worker for Hertfordshire Youth Service.
Do you feel supported?
Yes, I have a very close family that are always there for me, also I have amazing friends who understand my illness and how it can affect me on a daily basis. I would also like to say how important local support groups have been. I attend a coffee morning which is facilitated by MIND. Over the years funding has decreased so many resources have disappeared which isn’t ideal.
How is your future looking?
My future is positive and fulfilling, I will always need support and guidance but talking about my feelings and struggles is an important outlet. I am personally relieved that the Mental Health subject has become more common in the battle for equality.