When I First Became Mentally Ill as a Teenager

During puberty, I began to really like girls. I wanted a girlfriend very much. Already, I knew that I wanted to have a large family, like I’d had growing up, and that I wanted to wait until marriage to have sex.
Unfortunately, there was something wrong with me. I literally did not know how to have a girlfriend, or how to be a boyfriend because I was experiencing prodromal schizophrenia. Not knowing how to interact with girls frustrated me as a teenager.
Prodromal schizophrenia is the time period when a person’s mental health starts to deteriorate, yet the deterioration has not become noticeable to others. Prodromal schizophrenia can last for years.
As a teenager, I didn’t put much thought into wondering whether I might be mentally ill. I had no idea what prodromal schizophrenia and paranoid schizophrenia were. Maybe if there had been more awareness about schizophrenia and other mental disorders in school, I would have figured it out. But instead, my illness progressed, and I had no idea.
In junior high, I tried and tried to get a girlfriend. My friends would introduce me to girls and they asked girls if they’d be interested in dating me. I asked my friend Steve if he could help me get Dorothy to be my girlfriend. Steve was dating Dorothy’s friend. I knew nothing else about Dorothy and had never spoken to her, but I really wanted to have a girlfriend. I wasn't sure if I should date her because I hadn’t met her, but I was dying to be in love. Dating seemed like a good first step.
Steve wrote a note that asked Dorothy if she’d be my girlfriend, and I signed it. Together, Steve and I gave the letter to Dorothy while she was confabbing with her friends during lunch at school. We stood nearby trying to look cool.
She said yes, just loud enough for us to hear. Steve cheered, and then we walked away.
Steve and my other friends had teased me about kissing Dorothy; however, I was confused and didn’t know what to say to a girlfriend, because I was so ill.
"Kiss Dorothy. Kiss her!" Steve tried his best to convince me over the next few weeks. "Kiss your first love."
"I will," I promised, hoping I'd figure out how to get to know her better soon. I just couldn't figure it out, so I continued to put off talking to her.
Because I didn’t know how to have a girlfriend, however, I never talked to or even sat next to Dorothy. Plus, I was still shy. I wanted very much to sit next to her during lunch in order to get to know her better. But I continually put off talking to her. Dorothy never attempted to talk to me, either. In fact, our longest conversation took place when she broke up with me over the phone, a month or two later.
Early in high school, because I was so ill, I tried again to get a girlfriend, but I still was deeply confused. All throughout my teenage years, I was struggling mentally. And then, one day, when I was almost twenty-one, I became noticeably ill to my parents, and they brought me to see a psychiatrist. Had I gotten help earlier, maybe I could have had a girlfriend and not missed out on being a teenager.
That occurred many years ago. Today, there is much more awareness about mental illness, and there are more resources that allow young people to get advice. Fortunately, medications are also better today.
If your thinking isn’t what it should be, please tell someone and get professional advice. There might be a possibility that you are mentally ill, and if you are, you will want to begin treatment as soon as possible. And, please, tell the truth; do not lie about how you feel. A medical professional will use what you tell him or her to diagnose and treat you.
Today, I am at least seventy-percent recovered, according to my psychiatrist, and that is as well as I’ll most likely be, even with the medications I take. I am doing exceptionally well, and I have a great life. You can have a great life, too, if you get the help you need.

About Richard Carlson Jr:

Richard Carlson Jr. is an author of children’s books and coming-of-age romances. He is a highly sensitive person, or HSP, who has paranoid schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. You can learn about his memoir, Surviving Schizophrenia, at www.rich.center. Surviving Schizophrenia is available in English, Spanish, Dutch, and Hindi and coming soon as an audiobook.

Surviving Schizophrenia in the Arizona Daily Star

Today, I had an unusual feeling telling me to check our local newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star, to see if they did an article about my memoir, Surviving Schizophrenia, and they did!

Click here to read article online.

Modern Psychiatry Failed Me for Over a Decade

I am extremely fortunate to have been living with my parents when I first became noticeably psychotic. I was twenty. Had I been living on my own, my parents might never have known how ill I had become. I would have been homeless, perhaps, living day to day in a horrendous state of mind. I have my parents to thank, particularly my father for being my caregiver when I was extremely ill.

Once my psychosis took hold, I believed that my father, who is a good father, had abused me when I was a child. I believed that I had been wanted by the Mafia, CIA, Mossad, and every other intelligence agency around the world. In fact, in my mind, there was a chance that I might be tortured for the rest of my life in prison by the Mafia. In addition, I thought that my mind had evolved to such a degree that two bumps had grown on my head (one on each side) and were controlling the world. As a result, I was convinced that my mind was responsible for Operation Desert Storm—this was an act of revenge for the teasing I’d endured in elementary school. I thought that no one could remember me being wanted by the Mafia, etc., because now it was a dream inside my mind. I believed that people remembered me in the past differently; some people remembered me one way, and other people remembered me another way because the bumps re-wrote the past. Some people remembered me being a Mafia boss, and others, in some way in which they wouldn’t ever mess with me. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I was delusional.

After I was hit with full-blown paranoid schizophrenia, I dropped out of college. My first psychiatrist, whom my parents brought me to after I told my father I was wanted by the Mafia, diagnosed me with paranoid schizophrenia. However, because of a neurological disorder called anosognosia, I did not believe that I had this mental illness, even though my psychiatrist explained to me that I had paranoid schizophrenia; I thought that I was actually seeing a psychiatrist for a different reason entirely. I was under the grandiose delusion that I was supposed to see a psychiatrist and tell him all about what I experienced in my mind, so that he could help me contact experts about people whose minds had evolved. Once I accomplished this goal, I thought I would no longer need to see a psychiatrist.

I think that my first psychiatrist knew I was suffering from anosognosia. But later, when I saw other psychiatrists, I did not receive proper treatment, because they didn’t know about everything I was experiencing in my mind. I told my psychiatrists very little about what I was experiencing; I never divulged the whole story. They would check to see if I was suffering from anosognosia by asking me why I was there. If I had replied that I didn’t have paranoid schizophrenia or gave another reason for the visits, then they would know I had anosognosia and treat me accordingly. I always lied and said that I had paranoid schizophrenia, because that’s what they expected me to say, since that was the “diagnosis.” Ironically, I really did have paranoid schizophrenia, so I was telling the truth—but in my mind, it was all a lie. So I would lie and state that I had paranoid schizophrenia to go along with my psychiatrists’ expectations because I knew that they wouldn’t believe in the grandiose delusion. At that point, I did not even believe that I needed to see a psychiatrist, but I did so anyway.

For eleven and a half years, I lied to my psychiatrists about how I was feeling. I told them that I was doing well, and so, they assumed I was telling the truth, I suppose, because they prescribed a low dose of antipsychotic medication. Sadly, they had no idea about the horrendous state of mind I was in. If my psychiatrists had figured out that I was suffering from anosognosia, they could have worked with me, possibly increasing my meds to the point that I would overcome my anosognosia and realize I actually did have paranoid schizophrenia—but that didn’t happen.

After lying for twelve and a half years, my psychiatrist took me off the medication completely; he thought that, since I had been doing so well based on what I’d told him, I probably did not have paranoid schizophrenia. He claimed that, if I showed no symptoms for a year, he would declare me not paranoid schizophrenic. He also suggested that a psychotic episode had caused my initial complaint, twelve years earlier, about the Mafia being after me. My father agreed with him, but they were very wrong. Not long after that meeting, I started hearing a voice that played with my emotions and commanded me to do bad things like steal and to modify a Web site I had to include offensive and inappropriate content. Eventually, there was an incident with the police.

Then, the voice told me that I had paranoid schizophrenia. The voice “figured out” that I was schizophrenic. As a result, I finally told the truth. I began the recovery process and of finding the right combinations of medications and correct dosages to help. If the voice had never told me that I had paranoid schizophrenia, I might never know.

When I figured out that I really was paranoid schizophrenic, I began showing signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I also experienced episodes of paranoia, in which I thought people were after me, and delusions about plagiarism. My paranoia and OCD took a toll on everyone. Even when the voice told me to wash my hands an excessive number of times, even when my hands were red and sore, it seemed to make sense. Interrupting dinner to wash my hands over and over also seemed to make sense.

The first thing I realized when I figured out I had paranoid schizophrenia, is that people should be truthful, and that I should tell the truth, especially about how I am feeling. The OCD symptoms gradually went away as I realized over time that these things were OCD. My paranoia decreased to the point where today I rarely experience it and when I do, at times I realize it is paranoia and it goes away. My recovery took over ten years. The longer a person experiences psychosis (for me, it was twelve and a half years), the longer his or her recovery takes once treatment begins.

The only mentally ill person I can speak for is myself. I did what the voice told me to do almost all of the time. To this day, I often obey it, because it seems to just make sense to do so.

Today, doing what the voice says usually does make a lot of sense; it tells me not to leave too early for my dental appointment and to tell the whole truth. I am not 100% better. However, according to my present psychiatrist, due to my meds, I am at least 70% recovered, which, he believes, is the best I can be.

An important lesson I learned from my experience is to be honest. Honesty should be practiced by everyone.

Surviving Schizophrenia

Surviving Schizophrenia is Available

My memoir, Surviving Schizophrenia is finally available. It is available in paperback and in Kindle format, and will be also available at other e-book retailers, like Barnes & Noble very soon.

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Surviving Schizophrenia Memoir Finally Finished

I got back my memoir from the editor a few days ago, and made a few changes. I am letting a relative read it before publication just to make sure she agrees with everything I included. It will be first available as a Kindle e-book download and in paperback format and soon it will be available as a Barnes & Noble Nook e-book download.

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