Antonio, February 24, 2020

People put down your capabilities and say  you should do things which are ‘easy’,  but you don’t always have to take the easy route.

There’s a limitation on who you can tell that you have schizophrenia - especially being from the BAME community. Not everyone understands schizophrenia or thinks it’s a real thing. Some people might think it means having a split personality, but it’s not like that.

When I was hospitalised, rumours started being spread about me. What I’d told one person changed as it was passed from person-to-person…before I knew it people thought I was dangerous. I was a popular person, but my big circle of friends started to become small, as some of them said I’d ‘fallen off’.

There’s a black cloud surrounding schizophrenia which follows me everywhere. You see people with mental health problems in strait jackets and doing violent things in movies, so people start to think you’re like that. Others think we use our diagnosis as a way of avoiding accountability. If everyone had a choice, no one would choose to feel or act as if they had a mental health problem - so it’s just not true.

Everyone has mental health; it’s just some people have poorer mental health than others. What’s happened to me could happen to anyone.

I started to hallucinate. I was hearing voices and I was always paranoid people were looking at me. The voices told me people were talking about me. When I heard those voices, I tried to challenge them, denying what they were telling me, but they were too overpowering. When you hear voices, it makes you feel bad about yourself - I was upset with myself, not other people, and I never wanted to hurt anyone. I felt so bad about myself that it consumed me - I didn’t even think about other people. The voices stress you out and when other people spread rumours, it adds to that stress. I was fighting a war in my own head. It was against me - not other people - and I was trying to fight it alone. 

I started to learn how to recognise the voices, how to challenge them, and then I started to understand and become more aware of them. I try to distract myself when I hear them now by listening to music, doing mindfulness - putting myself in a happy place. If I give myself too much space to think and ruminate the voices become stronger. If I feel pressured or things get too much, I put my headphones in and listen to the UK top charts which helps to slow down my thoughts and block out the voices.

I lose trust in myself daily. Every day I have to tell myself I can trust my mind. I used to have this idea that, because I have a mental health problem, I should limit myself. I created a barrier, but others helped to build it around me. People put down your capabilities and say you should to do things which are ‘easy’, but you don’t always have to take the easy route. I like to challenge myself, because it’s only when you come out of your comfort zone that you start to grow.

It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to start university twice now because of my mental health. When I returned, my head was saying ‘you’re not ready’, so I had to push myself to take the next step. I wanted to stay in my bubble, but I trusted my mind, and now I’ve broken free.

Read Antonio's experience of living with schizophrenia during lockdown.

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