A few days ago, someone told me a story about a woman they had met who was schizophrenic. They didn’t know what it was when they told the story though. They just told me how the woman said she had a cruel little man who lived inside her head and that said man didn’t give her a day of peace. For the longest time, she said, the people around her thought she was demon possessed. So naturally, she’s spent the last 20 or so years going from one pastor/church to another. I felt two things when I heard this story; extreme sympathy and pity –both for the woman and for the ignorant people she’s encountered over the years. Imagine going an entire lifetime not knowing what is wrong with you; living a nightmare all by yourself, and in the one place you can’t escape from –your head. The good news is, after 20 years of turmoil, said woman got help. Of the many people she has encountered over the years, she finally met someone who suspected what it might be and took her to see a psychiatrist who, after an extensive examination, diagnosed her with acute schizophrenia.
During the examination, she repeatedly told the doctor not to bother trying to treat her because the guy in her head was going to bribe the doctor into not treating her. She genuinely believed that said guy was so rich and powerful that he could bribe anyone. Apparently, she had thought about going to the hospital several times but said guy had talked her out of it saying that he would pay the doctors not to treat her. It sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? The cycle is unbelievably vicious. As she spoke, the other people in the room who weren’t doctors were moved to near-tears by the amount of fear in her voice.
Anyway, after an intense session, the doctor recommended some medicine to manage the situation and an injection that said patient was supposed to get every 2 months to manage the symptoms. He promised that in a few weeks, if she continued to take her medicine as instructed, said man would eventually go away. He beseeched her not to let the man talk her out of taking her medicine.
What was really sad about this was;
1) The medicine was quite pricey. I mean granted, this particular person was lucky enough to land on the angels that got her help and offered to take on the financial responsibility of making sure she gets better (bless their generous hearts), but how many people ever are? I’ve heard people say many times that these are rich people problems but I can assure you this person is everything but. And there are so many out there like her. I shudder to think how many people have been sent to traditional healers, abandoned or left to die because of the prevailing ignorance about mental health disorders. Yet what can we do about it? Can we do anything to make it better?
Yes, we can. I can and you can too. The first step is to educate ourselves. When we know, we can help. We can help those around us to understand, we can arm them with tools to help those around them cope. We can support, we can encourage, we can empathize and most importantly, we know how not to make it worse for people that are already suffering. These sound like such small things but you will not believe how far they will go to saving lives.
2) So she gets her medicine and then goes back to her normal life. Will there be anyone to help her ward of the voice inside her head that tells her to take her medicine and actually make sure she sees her treatment through? Getting the medicine is one thing, but does she have a support system?
The importance of a support system cannot be stressed enough. We all need it. And so we must all endeavor to be it for someone else. Someone needs you. Be there.
What a difference a little love and a little empathy can make!