Seeking Early Mental Health Treatment Key To Recovery
I am a person living with schizophrenia, but I do not let that define me. I am a person who hallucinates monsters, but I am not a monster. I am more than my diagnosis. I am more than my symptoms. I am me.
I have had schizophrenia symptoms for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I used to hallucinate a shadowy figure that my parents called “Mr. Blob Man.” They joked that it was a ghost, and I was terrified of it. It would come out of my closet at night. I do not blame them for not taking me seriously. What five-year-old is not afraid of the dark? What five-year-old does not think that there is a monster inside of their closet? Pixar even made an entire movie around that concept.
In middle school, I started hearing whispers in my ear and static as if two radio stations were playing at the same time. Before I could put words to what I was experiencing, I thought that I was possessed. I thought that I was being punished. I was scared. I was embarrassed. Worse of all, I thought it was my fault.
Around junior year of high school was when my hallucinations began to progress and become more lifelike. The monster inside my closet became more lifelike. I made the mistake of watching the older adaptation of Steven King’s It during this time. I don’t know what it was about that film that left such an impression on me. Maybe it was because I related to the kids in the film because the kids were seeing the monster but the adults were not. The monster inside of my closet became the clown, and it was no longer confined to my closet and bedroom. It started to follow me at school. It started to follow me at scouts. It started to follow me everywhere.
I did not get diagnosed with schizophrenia until my sophomore year of college because I was instructed by my parents not to tell anyone about the clown. It took me eight months after a suicide attempt to finally get the help that I needed. I was instructed by my family to not tell anyone because they thought people would think I was "crazy," think I was "dangerous," and that I would "not be able to get a job." I cannot believe that I almost lost my life out of fear of what other people might think.
I do not live life with many regrets. If you do not have a few regrets though, then I believe that you are not being honest enough with yourself or too proud. We all make mistakes and do things that we wish that we had done differently. The important thing is to not dwell on the things you regret but rather learn from them. My regret with schizophrenia is not getting treatment sooner. I waited until I had almost lost my life. I waited until after the clown manifested. I waited until after more hallucinated characters joined him.
My message to anyone out there who is experiencing hallucinations and considering getting help is to not let anyone including yourself get in the way of getting the proper medical treatment that you deserve. It is not only your choice but also your right. The opinions of other people are not worth your life.
My name is Cecilia McGough. I have schizophrenia, and I am not a monster.
About the Author
Cecilia McGough is a New York City-based mental health activist, writer, media consultant, and radio astronomer. She is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Students With Psychosis and content creator for the I Am Not A Monster: Schizophrenia project. As a TEDx speaker and Special Books By Special Kids interviewee, Cecilia has delivered her message through videos that have been viewed over 20 million times across multiple platforms globally. She has been featured in Forbes, Glamour UK, Barcroft TV, and CBS This Morning. She was selected as the keynote speaker for the Schizophrenia International Research Society 2020 Congress. In addition, Cecilia has been protesting and giving a voice for the psychosis community in the gun violence debate since 2018 by marching alongside 200,000 people in Washington D.C. for the March For Our Lives movement. In 2019, she co-organized the I’m Mentally Ill, And I Don’t Kill protest at Union Square, New York City.
Cecilia will join Nathan Shuherk as one of the featured speakers for Stop Hiding,Start Talking, an event presented by Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri set for September 9, 2020 at City Museum in St. Louis. Sign up for this free event here!