For World Mental Health Day we spoke with Rai Waddingham about what life is really like when you’re living with schizophrenia
Most of us know little about the reality of living with a condition like schizophrenia. 39-year-old Rai Waddingham has experienced visions and voices since the age of about seven and says that most of us recoil from the thought, associating it with axe murderers and psychopaths (no doubt thanks to Hollywood).
The one in every 100 people that schizophrenia affects will tell you that living with visions and voices is a different experience to the impressions created by popular culture. For World Mental Health Day, we spoke to Rai Waddingham, mental health professional and owner of website Behind The Label (which campaigns to replace mental health labels with personal stories) about what it’s really like to live with schizophrenia, about why she believe the diagnosis itself is unhelpful and why ultimately, she made a decision to stop taking her medication.
Waddingham explains how experiences in early life shaped how she responds to the world and reveals that she believes suffering from psychosis doesn’t make her mentally ill. A strong advocate of not seeing this condition as a lifelong debilitating disease, Waddingham believes being free of diagnostic categories and focusing on individual stories is the real way to tackle this problem.
What is schizophrenia?
Mental health charity Rethink, describe schizophrenia as a mental health illness which impacts the way that you think and can seriously affect the way that you cope with day-to-day life. It’s a common illness which affects around one in a hundred people. It can develop during young adulthood and can impact on your sleep, emotions, motivation, communication and your ability to think clearly.
When sufferers become unwell it’s referred to as an ‘acute episode’ where they might feel panic, anger or depression – the first acute episode can be a scary experience because you’re not expecting or prepared for it.
Lots of myths surround this condition – people mistakenly believe that schizophrenia means someone has a split personality and can cause people to be violent. But according to Rethink research shows that only a very small amount of people with this condition become violent (in the same way that a small minority of the general public will).
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of schizophrenia can vary significantly. Symptoms include suffering from hallucinations and delusions. Other symptoms include disorganised thinking, lack of motivation, slow movement, a change in sleeping patterns, poor grooming or hygiene, changes in body language and emotions as well as a loss of interest in social activities or a low sex drive. However, it’s important to note that everyone is different and not everyone with schizophrenia will have these symptoms.
Where to get help:
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