Living With Schizophrenia I was very young when I experienced my first break from reality. I remember hearing voices and seeing shadows everywhere I went. Creatures of my mind. As a child, I was confused and scared of the hallucinations I was experiencing. I didn’t understand why I was hearing and seeing the things I did. They would tell me that the world would benefit if I was no longer around or that I should harm someone just to protect myself. By the time I started the fifth grade, I experienced my first complete psychotic break. One day at school, I became overwhelmed by the visions of shadow-like figures beginning to surround me. I felt so conflicted on what to do, it felt like all eyes were on me and everyone was out to get me and that I must protect myself. I ran out the classroom and hid inside of the girl’s bathroom, locking myself in one of the stalls. My teacher called the school guidance counselor and school police officer to calmly get me out of the stall. I remember screaming “No, they’re here! They are going to kill me.” They were obviously puzzled by who I meant was going to hurt me. I told them from behind the stall that the shadows and the man (the name of the voices I heard) was telling me to hurt others and myself. It took the police officer telling me that no one was coming to harm me and that I am much safer with him than alone by myself. I opened the bathroom stall and ran into the officer’s arms and began to break down crying. I didn’t know until after I came out the bathroom that there was a EMS team waiting for me with a stretcher. I didn’t know that the hour I was in the bathroom with the guidance counselor and officer, that another counselor called my parents and they agreed to turn me into state care as they knew I was experiencing these symptoms, but had no clue where to take me or what to do. I was transported to a nearby hospital where I met my parents. We together spoke to crisis intervention about the symptoms I had been experiencing and the next steps to take as a family. My parents talked it over with the interventionist and everyone agreed that I needed to stay inside of a hospital environment until I was better. After a week of being in the psych hospital, I began to improve. My anti-psychotics were increased but I still was experiencing hallucinations and paranoid thoughts. The first time I heard my new diagnosis I was in family therapy at the hospital. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with early onset schizophrenia at the age of 11. I didn’t understand that word. Schizophrenia was the thing that had been controlling my thoughts and haunting me since I was a young child. It has been an on and off battle since being released from the hospital. The first few years were tough. I isolated myself from everyone else. I felt like an outcast. No one I knew was going through what I went through. As I stressed out about my social life, school and after school activities, I began to neglect taking my medication. Around this time, I was in middle school. Puberty was hard enough but being a preteen with a severe mental health diagnosis made life even harder for me to deal with. I was 13 when I first attempted to take my own life. As I look on it now, I am happy I survived. But, it landed me another month back in the hospital. The doctors told me how important it was to take my medication. I took that advice to heart. I no longer wanted to be the victim of my diagnosis. I wanted to survive. It took a while, but I began to start taking my medication. Mainly, because I did not want to relapse again. I wanted to fight this. With the help of my parents, therapist and school counseling staff, I am able to live with schizophrenia instead of letting it control my life. I began to interact more with my peers, I no longer felt alienated and I no longer let the hallucinations take charge of my life. I began to make more friends, my grades increased and I wasn’t afraid of my own mind anymore. After graduating high school, I went into college to study not only Visual Arts but also Early Childhood Development. I feel like—regardless of a few setbacks—I am a recovery story. If I would have to speak to myself at age 11 I would say, you are a strong young woman. Don’t let fear consume your bright young mind. Get the help. There is nothing to be afraid of. Adults and professionals will help you through your hardest struggles. Don’t isolate yourself. You are not alone. Share your story, message, poem, quote, photo or video of hope, struggle or recovery. By sharing your experience, you can let others know that they are not alone.