How my schizophrenia is making my artistic career a nightmare

If you’re wondering how schizophrenia can hinder your life goals, look no further! I have some thoughts here on how the illness affects your path forward …

LACK OF INSPIRATION

As a schizophrenic, you probably live a somewhat isolated life. A significant reduction of impressions, input and stress factors is essential in recovery, but the flip side is that you quickly get bored, feel frustrated and unfulfilled. Because pretty much anything outside the front door of your house stresses you, it’s easier to just stay at home most of the time – so you’re not going shopping, taking the train in to Copenhagen, or even just going for a cycle trip around your neighbourhood. The consequence? Lack of inspiration. Not meeting people on a daily basis, challenging yourself in ‘traditional’ ways or learning new things like you would be in school (again: Education or employment is often not an option for people with schizophrenia namely because of all the stress!). But here’s the thing: Even just watching TV can be overwhelming. And I used to think Paradise Hotel was the main reason I didn’t watch TV 😉

I need a T-shirt that says “Fragile – Handle With Care”, basically … but, joking apart, what does one do for creative inspiration when one’s brain is intent on sabotaging every attempt?

THE CONCEPT OF TIME

I guess we all understand this one. Procrastination. Although, with schizophrenia, it appears to have another dimension; we simply don’t seem to understand how time works. If you don’t start your assignment today, you’ll have more work to do tomorrow! Common sense! But who are these mythical creatures that start their assignments at a sensible time, and where can I get one? Anyway … with schizophrenia, multiply this idea by about a thousand. Instead of short-term goals, think long-term. I’m still living at home at 25 without a plan for when and how I’m going to move out. My poor, exhausted parents … it can’t be easy!

Combine with low motivation and you have a perfect recipe for how to never get anything done. Where it gets frightening is when, suddenly, someone else comes along and snaps up the opportunities you were too passive to accept. I’m not even saying this has happened to me yet, but it’s a worry. The longer I go without doing much, the guiltier I feel, the more overwhelming the task at hand seems, the more I put it off … it’s a vicious cycle, but you can only break out of it when you’re ready – forcing it doesn’t work. Unfortunately, when you have schizophrenia, ‘ready’ is a fickle concept! – Yeah, would my thoughts please align and report for duty – like – now?! …

NOT UNDERSTANDING YOUR PARENTS’ ADVICE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

“Oh … That’s why they said that …”

Throughout my life, my parents and other relatives have given me plenty of advice. I haven’t always followed it, only to regret this later. I’m learning that, 99 % of the time, my parents – who know me, love me and see me from the outside – are absolutely right. Listen to your parents, people! However, I know how difficult it often is as a schizophrenic to see ‘the big picture’ or think forward; I feel I am mostly guided by how I feel at a given time. This can be detrimental to one’s success in whichever field one has chosen, but, when you have schizophrenia, a molehill seems like a mountain and it’s extremely difficult to follow good advice when you’re just not ‘feeling it’. I KNOW I ‘should’ be drawing. I KNOW I ‘should’ be painting. I WANT to be like the productive artists who churn out portrait after portrait. But I’m not going to. It’s disheartening knowing that, no matter what, my brain will get the better of me and I just won’t sit down and apply myself to the task at hand.

My advice to relatives would be: Ooh, it’s difficult. Suggesting someone with schizophrenia (or anyone) do something can be counterproductive. But we just don’t act of our own accord! So … be understanding towards whatever choice we make, and praise any progress. I understand you don’t want to ‘manage’ your loved one’s way forward – however, I also know the despair I feel when I realise I ‘should’ have done something, but didn’t, and now someone else is further ahead of me … it’s overwhelmingly maddening. I know I’ll get over it eventually, but it’s deeply frustrating in the moment. I think there’s a balance to be found – theoretically, learning how to deal with obstacles and JUST DO IT is my first thought, but reality’s not that simple. So I guess I don’t have an answer to this problem. Yet. I will let you know if I magically gain the power to produce art and books ad infinitum 😉

Yeah. I might have more to say on this matter at a later time, but for now, that’s all I can think of. Schizophrenia sucks.

Quick thoughts on CRITICISM

I don’t handle criticism well. I do my best, but it just takes ages for me to ‘recover’ from being told I’m doing something wrong. I might have an immediate negative reaction, and then spend ages ruminating over it – and never actually make progress, because I’m too scared to fail again. Long live perfectionism.

Solution: Feedforward, not feedback. If you can see where I’ve made a mistake or am going wrong, don’t lecture me. Don’t reprimand me. Because having schizophrenia comes with cognitive deficits that, among other things, make it extremely difficult to ‘think forward’, we don’t – for example – learn from being punished or getting a ‘consequence’; this only hurts us and psychologically makes it even more difficult to ‘recover’ and act better in the future.

The following is not exactly a ‘punishment’, but an example of how difficult it is to bounce back from criticism: I participated in a poetry contest when I was little and at school in London. I recited my favourite poem from memory, nervously, but was so proud of myself afterwards. When it came to evaluating the recitals, the judge put me in 4th place out of 4 – and said something along the lines of, “I didn’t feel you actually understood the words you were reciting”. I didn’t hear anything else. I was so angry he had humiliated me like that in front of everyone without me having any chance to defend myself.

The mere fact that I can still remember this so clearly probably illustrates my point 😉

SO, instead: Be kind, not angry. Be helpful, not judgmental. Tell the person in question how to act in the future, but don’t make them feel like they’ve made a mistake; so maybe say how you could see why they acted like they did, but it would be more useful for them to do X instead of Y in the future. ‘Future’ works. That’s something you can work towards. Also, your tone of voice is important; even if you are irritated or impatient, don’t show it – feeling like we’ve failed to live up to certain standards is devastating. Often we schizophrenics don’t see where we’re going wrong (self-awareness is usually impaired) AND we’re especially vulnerable to criticism or negativity.

Here endeth the first lesson 😉

THE DARK SIDE

I watched Inception the other night – one of my all-time favourite films. The concept of ‘limbo’ (described as “an expanse of raw, infinite subconscious”) and everything else about the film fascinates me. Christopher Nolan’s (director) idea is delightfully complex, yet fresh (and brilliant), masterfully executed by top-notch actors and packed with edge-of-your-seat action. If you haven’t seen it, what have you been doing with your life?

Joking apart, my mother and brother sit there going, “What? Why? How?” while I am transfixed! (Don’t necessarily ask me to explainthe plot, though – that’s a job for someone who doesn’t have a muddled, schizophrenic kind of thought process) … 😉

But, cognitive functions aside, I’ve been doing so well lately – so, on Friday, having a bit of a ‘dip’ in my mood (and functioning) came as an unwelcome surprise. Yeah, I felt frustrated, angry and helpless all of a sudden (not a state I like being in) – and it continued into Saturday. It’s only today I’m feeling a bit better.

Let me explain:

90 % of the time, I consider myself pretty darn content with life and able to cope – thanks to the massive support from my family, wonderful network, psychiatric nurse and, of course, the medicine I take to control my symptoms. I don’t see any reason to complain. I’ve never been a ‘mood swing’ kind of person. In fact, all things considered, I’m pretty stable that way – usually in a good mood. So, when my mood DOES drop, it’s freaking terrifying (!), because I don’t know how to ‘get back’ to the good mood – and, suddenly, the 90 % of time that I’m not down in the dumps’ seems like a foreign nation (further exacerbating my panic).

There’s also the thought that I SHOULDN’T feel low. That I can’t ‘afford’ it. I’m in such a good place (so much better than I’ve ever been) and all that I’ve slowly and surely built up … I can’t bear to see it ‘go to waste’. What I mean is: when I’m feeling low, I don’t have energy for all the things I normally do ‘without thinking’ on a daily basis. Ceramics. Seeing friends. Going to family get-togethers. Walking my dog. Coping in general. Looking after myself. It’s scary when you can’t even find the energy to wash your hair. To wash your hair.When you can’t listen to music because it feels like an intrusion rather than a pleasure. Having an inner freak-out moment when walking the dog and just having to grit your teeth and keep walking, even though your legs are shaking and your heart is racing, and you can’t put your finger on why …?

So, of course, when these ‘little’ things seem overwhelming – how on earth would you cope with getting out the door, being around people and behaving normally? You wouldn’t. So maybe you apologetically cancel your plans and skip ceramics for one week. But you can’t continue to do that. Unless you’ve had a full-blown relapse, there’s no excuse to just sit at home all day doing nothing.

Limbo – being ‘in-between’. It’s a difficult state to find yourself in. Not ill enough to be hospitalised, but not healthy enough to be a contributing member of society. Easy enough to answer questions in a conversation already taking place, but too challenging to take initiative yourself. Not so drained that all you can do is sleep, but not enough energy to do your makeup and brush your teeth. I’m beginning to understand why the neglect of personal hygiene can often be one of the warning signs that someone is slipping into psychosis. I should add, at this juncture, that I have healthy, well-cared-for teeth but I do know how easy it could be to ‘forget’ to look after them when you’re in the throes of a ‘slump’. With the double-whammy of antipsychotic medication also affecting your mouth (dry mouth being a common side effect) I really understand how important it is to brush and floss on a daily basis. It’s a harsh reality that appearances mean a lot, no matter how ‘shallow’ that might seem. And, unfortunately, society in general is waaay too focused on and obsessed with looks, but it doesn’t change the (psychological) fact that being polished and presentable does work to one’s advantage.

When I’m in this state of limbo (and, thank goodness, it’s not morphed into a relapse since 2015) I feel helpless, panicky – like I’m losing control. And, to some degree, I am losing control – because I can’t control it. My relapse in 2015 came like a bolt from the blue. So why couldn’t it happen again? When I’m already feeling vulnerable, that thought is very frightening. I really can’t be doing with having to rip six months (at least) ‘out of my calendar’ and start from scratch again – especially not with having come SO far. I have so much to lose. Schizophrenia isn’t known for being well-timed, but I haven’t factored relapse into my ‘recovery journey’ since 2015 (because I’ve felt so much more equipped to cope) and, perhaps naively, believe ‘it won’t happen to me again’.

Some people can express their darkest moments through art. I can’t. I simply don’t have the energy to pick up a paintbrush when I’m feeling that way. For me, ‘limbo’ is utterly useless – I don’t learn anything from it, I cannot produce anything of value and all it does is send me spiralling into a state of panic and agitation. This is often when I feel an urge to talk to someone to get relief – but my mum cannot always be my ‘on-call’ 24/7 psychologist. I have to find a healthier, more practical way of dealing with the chaos inside my head when things go pear-shaped.

Writing, as always, helps me SO much. Which is part of the reason why I get extremely anxious when the words just won’t come to me. I couldn’t have written this blog post on Friday (note: for my Danish followers, “on Friday” (in English) can mean both the previous Friday or the upcoming one (unlike in Danish where “på fredag” only means the upcoming Friday). Just so you know – I’m talking about the previous Friday!).

In Inception, a lot of things have to fall into place simultaneously for the team’s mission to succeed. They are attacked from all sides, run into endless obstacles and have to quickly adapt and ultimately complete the mission a lot faster than anticipated. I guess you could liken it to recovery. Having to deal with voices, cognitive symptoms, stress factors, frustrations, side effects, unexpected incidents, bullying trauma and so on, is no easy task while trying to build and live as normal (or just fulfilling) a life as possible … and life also has a habit of demanding your absolute full attention and best efforts, especially when times get tough.

The fascinating concept of dreams, ideas and the subconscious, the superb acting, the use of impressive practical stunts rather than special effects, the brilliance of coordinating a multi-layer dream and even the film not being a typical clear-cut portrayal of ‘good vs. bad’ (due to the unethical nature of Saito’s motives) make Inception a filmic work of art, in my opinion.

Schizophrenia, on the other hand, is messy and ugly. I do my best to explain my experiences with the disease in as concise and honest a way as possible – and hope it continues to reach and help those who need it. How has my book helped you the most?

UPDATE …

Sorry for the radio silence. I’ve been ‘recovering’ from the speech 😉 Naturally, it took a lot of energy. Before, during and after. Especially after. I’ve been tired. So tired! Not much energy for anything other than painting and ceramics. I haven’t even seen my friends for ages!

I’ve also had a slight ‘dip’, which is inevitable (all that positive stress). Feeling a bit low and easily frustrated. When I’m in that kind of mood, I’m not thinking about my blog, I’m thinking about feeling better again. I’m not a depressive person by nature, but I haven’t yet found an effective way out of feeling sad when I feel sad. Waiting for it to ‘blow over’ is difficult, and often I just have to go to sleep and wait till morning – when what I really want to do is find a solution that works! And often when I’m down, everything I normally do without thinking seems insurmountably impossible – so you can imagine how frustrating that is (not being able to write a blog post, do some art, see a friend, or even just go for a walk). It’s just too overwhelming in that moment, and I’m also scared that I’ll ‘associate’ the negative feeling with anything I try to do to get out of the blues … so that thing (whether it’s writing a blog post, doing some art, seeing a friend or going for a walk) will become more challenging in the future, because I’ll have to ‘get over’ the aspect of remembering the negative feeling I had, too. Does that make sense? It seems trivial when I put it into words like that, but it’s something that’s been bothering me for a while! Does anyone else experience this? 🙂

Anyway! What else can I tell you about? Oh yeah … I turned down an opportunity to participate in a TV documentary about voice-hearers. WHAAAAT? I hear you say, but hear me out! I really had to sit down and think about it, and I decided to say no simply because I know how much minor things stress me, and I just didn’t feel ready for that kind of exposure. The format of the program meant that I (and some others) would be followed for several months – and given that it’s taken me this long to recover from a speech, I highly doubt I would be able to be ‘on’ for that long, consistently, in the way I would like. I’m not good ‘on the spot’ – I need preparation and warning, but that doesn’t necessarily work on TV! So, as much as I felt compelled to say yes, I think I’ll stick to communicating my message out in writing – that is my strength, after all – and I’ll just hope they get a good program out of it without me (and my Black Wall of Darkness) 😉

To be honest, I’m really trying to focus on my art and writing – these things are important to me and help me in my recovery. Anything else is something I have to ‘gear myself up’ to do, so, of course, I have to approach it with greater caution.

Apropos … my painting course finishes tomorrow. I’ve attended it for three seasons – with my wonderful Farfar – and thoroughly enjoyed it. Such nice people, and it’s been good for me to get out the house every Wednesday and develop my painting skills in a ‘safe’ environment. But now, I think it’s time to venture down a new path. Last year, I talked about how I’ve been offered the amazing opportunity to work with Maria Rubinke. At the time, I was taken up with my book and everything surrounding it, so we arranged that I would come after all the activity had subsided a bit. I have been at her studio a few times already, and now I look forward to perhaps coming in every week as her protégé and learn how to work in porcelain 🙂 Check out her works – she’s insanely talented!!!

So that’s what’s happening for me right now. I hope you’re all doing okay.

MIT OPLÆG

Så fik jeg holdt et oplæg for medlemmer af JCI København!

JCI, Junior Chamber International, er et netværk for unge ledere og iværksættere, og sammen med senator Karen, så fik vi konstrueret et vellykket foredrag, hvor hun stillede mig spørgsmål omkring min historie, og jeg svarede. Bagefter svarede jeg på spørgsmål fra medlemmerne (mange var mødt op for at høre min fortælling – tak for det!).

Jeg synes, det var yderst fornuftigt at gøre det på denne måde, i stedet for at jeg skulle stå alene på en scene og fremlægge alt muligt. Dette var mit allerførste foredrag nogensinde – og vi havde også øvet os meget inden.

Nu er jeg meget træt og har fået en del stemmer sidenhen, men ikke nogle negative. Dog kommenterende på min præstation. “Hun er nervøs” “Hun er dygtig” “Hun klarede det godt” “Nu er hun træt” “She blanked a few times” “Awkward!” Og lignende … Jeg havde en gul trøje på, og det fik de også kommenteret på. Sikke meget de er for at fortælle mig, hvad jeg har på – tror de ikke, at jeg har tænkt bare lidt over det? 😉

Måske skulle jeg lige fortælle lidt om min tankegang bag at sige ja til denne mulighed, og min proces.

For det første, så syntes jeg, at det var et helt naturligt ‘næste skridt’. Jeg har klaret bog-signering, radiointerview, interviews i aviser og ugeblade. Alle disse ting har jeg drømt om, siden jeg var lille – at blive skrevet om og få lov til at kommunikere MIT budskab ud til landet. For jeg har meget på hjerte. Meget, som jeg ikke får kommunikeret på anden måde. Så enhver mulighed for at udtrykke mig, jeg får her i ‘starten’, siger jeg ikke nej til! (Bortset fra, hvis jeg ikke har overskud til det – så har jeg også sagt fra.) Det gælder hele tiden om at opveje, hvorvidt jeg får mere energi og glæde af at gøre noget, eller om jeg hellere må lade være og spare på energien.

Og sådan en begivenhed – et foredrag – er jo en kæmpe ting, især, når det var første gang, jeg kastede mig ud i det. Derfor er jeg også helt flad nu! Ikke noget program de næste mange dage. Jeg var ikke nervøs i dagene op til; det var først på dagen, jeg virkelig mærkede nervøsiteten, og måtte gøre mange ting for konstant at berolige mig selv. Gå frem og tilbage, kigge på mine noter, tage dybe indåndinger … for jeg ville IKKE klokke i det her. Det SKULLE gå godt, og helst mere end godt.

Det var først, da jeg stod foran mit publikum, at det gik op for mig, hvad jeg havde sagt ja til. Lad mig bare sige, at jeg var glad for, vi satte os ned! – for jeg rystede så meget, at jeg frygtede, mine ben ville knække sammen under mig. Jeg tror faktisk, jeg rystede hele foredraget igennem. Jeg blev tør i munden, mens jeg snakkede, så måtte ofte tage en tår vand. Men jeg havde mine noter, og Karen var god til at samle op. Det var vigtigt. Jeg vidste jo, at jeg havde alle svarene i hovedet, for jeg kender jo min egen historie! Men derfor var jeg alligevel nervøs for, at klappen ville gå ned, så jeg ikke kunne formidle et ord til de mange mennesker, der var mødt op for at høre mig.

Men jeg snakkede. Adrenalinen pumpede, og jeg snakkede. Jeg kiggede ikke engang særlig meget på mine noter. Jeg kiggede dog heller ikke ud på publikum. Ligesom i dagligdagssamtaler, hvor jeg undgår øjenkontakt, når jeg siger noget. Det er bare mest komfortabelt for mig.

Mine forældre, min bror, min onkel og min farfar var kommet ud for at høre mit oplæg. Og jeg tror ikke, det kunne være gået bedre.

For at vende tilbage til min tankegang bag at holde oplægget: Jeg ville måske også et eller andet sted bevise, at ‘jeg kan’. At jeg, selv med min skizofrenidiagnose, kan udrette ting på lige fod med alle andre – og dermed være en rollemodel for andre med skizofreni. Jeg har ALTID været ambitiøs, drevet og konkurrencemenneske – det har ikke ændret sig, blot fordi jeg har fået en diagnose. Tværtimod. Så at jeg kan sige ‘tjek’ til denne bedrift, er endnu en kæmpe sejr for mig.

Men det kræver noget. Det kræver en dygtig Karen, der arrangerer og står for oplægget. Det kræver mange timers forberedelse. Det kræver, at jeg ikke skal tænke på andet end at fortælle om mig selv. Det betyder: Masser af positiv stress; utallige stemmer efterfølgende; hjertebanken, adrenalin og den uundvigelige ‘depression’, når rusen har lagt sig.

Jeg kan ikke ‘bare gøre det’. Lige meget, hvor meget, jeg vil. Især, fordi alt det andet, jeg har foretaget mig det sidste par måneder siden bogens udgivelse, trods alt har været noget, jeg kunne godkende, inden det blev trykt – eller hvor jeg var godt beskyttet af familie og venner. Her – til oplægget – var jeg på. Live. On the spot. Og blev endda stillet spørgsmål, som jeg jo umuligt kunne forberede mig til!

Grænseoverskridende var det. Men samtidig en oplevelse, jeg ikke ville have været foruden. Og ja – tjek.

Er spændt på, hvad det næste bliver, når jeg lige har restitueret mig … 😉

ON EMBARRASSMENT

Ever lie in bed at night, having put your smartphone (and bad screen habits) aside, all set to get a good night’s sleep … and then BAM! Out of nowhere, you are walloped in the face by a sudden excruciating memory of something silly you did that happened eight years ago?

Join the club!

I often have painful flashbacks to most likely insignificant, minor mishaps that everyone else will probably long since have forgotten about. Or maybe not. Some of my ‘faux pas’ have been more noteworthy than others because they were related to my illness and all the senseless chaos it entails, but for the most part, I’m pretty sure I’m just as flawed and prone to blunders as everyone else.

It’s difficult to know, though, because people don’t talk about it. I mean, who would? Who would voluntarily disclose their most embarrassing moments to strangers unless they were skilled at communicating them in a humorous way? If you would, you’re bloody cool, but 99 % of people wouldn’t. And that’s a statistic I just made up, but it certainly feels that way sometimes …

Our social media feeds are flooded with only the most aesthetic Instagram posts avec witty captions, success stories on Facebook (new job, got into my dream education, engaged to my beau …), people hanging out with friends and having a good time, documenting it all on Snapchat – everyone’s highlight reels in general. And it’s only natural to compare oneself. I have, for too long, put pressure on myself to be more outgoing and ‘out there’ because I wasn’t ‘measuring up’ to my peers. But with time I’ve decided that it’s not worth the stress. I’m happy with who I am, so why try to live up to unrealistic standards? It’s more complicated, but I have to find ways to live out who I am, not constantly try to figure out how best to fit in. More complicated at first glance, but I’m sure it’ll get easier the more I work on it.

My point is, it’s more challenging to ‘own up’ to your flaws than it is to cover them up with a perfectly crafted Instagram post. (And I’m not just talking about filters and retouching :-P)

I say it often, but again: BULLYING really plays a massive part in magnifying one’s ‘mistakes’. I still get flashbacks to the time I went to efterskole (a school you live at for one year between finishing folkeskolen and before starting high school) and was bullied horrendously. I haven’t wanted to talk about it for years. I blamed myself for pretty much everything that happened and felt like the girls who tormented me – until I left the school early – had a certain power, because they were more ‘popular’ than me. They could spread rumours like wildfire, smear me behind my back, ruin my social life. They already did – and others, too. I wasn’t the only one who left well before the year was over.

One time I was lying in bed during the day because I’d been feeling ill, and suddenly my door burst open and this group of girls came in, opened my wardrobe, rummaged in my drawers, took out my notebooks and began to take photos of what I’d written in them. They took photos of me before I could do anything about it, and then they left again. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. How could I ask them, “Please would you delete the photos?” They could just lie and keep them. They were a gang, I was an individual. I had no power. What were they going to use the photos for? I never found out … you can imagine how much that screwed with my mind.

This was after my previous roommate had made my life a living nightmare. There was an incident where she screamed and shouted and threatened to beat me up if I didn’t unlock the door RIGHT NOW. This was about a week or two after starting at the school, and she’d invited practically all the guys to come in through our window and leave muddy footprints all over my bed. Then, in the evenings, when I was tired and wanted to sleep, she would make it very difficult to do so. So I ended up locking the door on her. That’s when all hell broke loose.

Needless to say, we weren’t roommates after that.

So do you see why I blamed myself? “I should never have chosen to go to efterskole. I should have known. I shouldn’t have brought notebooks. I shouldn’t have tried to befriend those girls. I shouldn’t have been so stupid.”

I was EMBARRASSED. About so much. Stuff I thought I could have avoided. And still think I could have. When, in fact, one could ask: Why am I the one feeling ashamed, when I did nothing wrong?

And that’s exactly what this is about. ‘Wrong’. When is something considered wrong? Where does the line between ‘acceptable’ and ‘offensive’ go? The line between ‘unique, must be admired’ and ‘weird, must be shunned’? And shouldn’t we all just take a massive chill pill and forgive each other for our shortcomings rather than all this malice?

So, for the sake of everyone’s mental health and comfort, I have a humble request: Please share your flaws, bloopers and mistakes. Not just in the ‘this is what my tummy looks like when it’s not sucked in’ kind of way, but maybe the things that sting a little to admit.

Starting now. What’s your biggest mistake?

CONNECTING THE DOTS

There’s a reason my family – lovingly – call me ‘special’ (in Danish, ‘speciel’ means something slightly different from English!). Yeah – eccentric. Atypical. Different. It can also just mean plain weird, but let’s not go into too many details 😉

Yesterday, a friend of mine came by my house when she was out running with her dad in the neighbourhood. We had a quick chat and then they left. I didn’t see anything ‘wrong’ with our brief exchange – that is, until I went downstairs and told my dad who’d been at the door.

“Did you invite them in?” he asked.

Oh my God! I’m such a dipstick! No, I had not invited them in. I had stood at the door, making an effort to engage in small talk, blissfully unaware of the fact that I probably should have asked if they wanted a coffee or at least a glass of water! Duh!!! What a featherhead! I immediately grabbed my phone and texted my friend to humorously apologise, but honestly, Georgia – where are your manners?

To be honest, with schizophrenia, sometimes your manners go out the window. Or maybe it’s just me being thoughtless, I don’t know. But I’m conveniently blaming the illness 😉 Why else would I live in my own head 99 % of the time and forget how to be a somewhat decent human?

I was at a family brunch Sunday morning. Even with my nearest and dearest, I find it difficult to initiate and make conversation. I wait for others to ask me questions – it’s just easier. Most of the time, I can’t think of anything to say, despite there being loads I could ask about – and then when I do think of something, I overanalyse it, out of nerves, until the moment passes. I’m often so excited to have something to say that I end up not saying it – paradoxical, right? But it’s because I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, as I don’t often ‘succeed’ socially (in my eyes). There are a lot of things I’m coming to terms with, accepting, moving on from – but I’ll always be ambitious. I’ll always strive to be better, improve, compete with myself. I can’t change this, it’s just my nature. And my father’s genes 😉 I’m not running for parliament, but I’m fighting – every day – just to live a normal life. To write, draw, paint and sculpt, see friends, and anything else that helps me in my recovery. To overcome ambivalence, doubt, anxiety and the pervasive fear of rejection. I’ve always been sensitive – even more so since my psychosis. Not an easy combo, ambition and sensitivity.

Socially, I’m often super-quiet, visibly overwhelmed and spaced out by all the impressions, and sometimes say things that seem a bit random. There will be the occasional moment where I’m more ‘on’ than usual, but it’s rare. It’s a long, hard struggle towards – possibly – becoming more apt at socialising. I say ‘possibly’ because it’s not given that I can change it. I’m essentially an overthinker, and to be honest, I love thinking – I love being able to think. It’s a gift. At least when it doesn’t take over and ‘paralyse’ me.

Unfortunately, even though I have the potential to excel at whatever I put my mind to (perhaps not any form of dancing – I think that’s beyond my two left feet), my tendency to quickly get bored and move on to the next thing hinders me. Also, I automatically assume everyone else sees things the way I do, which is a naive assumption, but only natural. It’s like with the voices – why would I question what’s been the norm for me since childhood?

I love my brain, though. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to think up imaginary characters, worlds and stories. I wouldn’t be able to read fast and quickly grasp complex concepts. I wouldn’t be able to play with rhymes the way I do. I wouldn’t be able to know all the things I know – just don’t ask me to explain it to you verbally! 😉

So, yeah … I may not be able to drive a car (trust me, it’s for your own safety), I may wonder why the computer won’t turn on when I haven’t checked it’s plugged in, and peeling vegetables certainly does not fall under my skill set. But guess what? I can do so many other things.

Fortunately, my friend didn’t mind the whole inviting-her-in scenario. Thank goodness. She knows me, after all – and that I’m ‘special’ 😉

So please, please, please – remember this about me. If I don’t immediately get up and offer the elderly woman my seat on the train, I’m NOT intentionally being rude. When I’m quiet and spaced out, it’s NOT because I’m not interested. Quite the opposite. I just lack the skills to make conversation and overcome the crippling anxieties surrounding making conversation. Schizophrenia takes with one hand and gives with the other; I am blessed with high intelligence, creativity, a sense of humour and kindness – all things I hold in high esteem – but at the same time, robbed of my ability to (verbally) communicate my thoughts effectively and be social, despite being social by nature. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating.

LIVING WITH SCHIZOPHRENIA – EXPECTATIONS VS REALITY

Hello, dear followers! (Yippee, finally another post in English! 🙂 )

Here, I have compiled a list of “Expectation vs Reality” one-liners related to schizophrenia! Take them with a pinch of salt – it is far from my intention to insult or degrade; simply to entertain lightly (and hopefully attribute a more human face to schizophrenia than the consistently negative and sensationalist picture the media paints) 🙂 I’m not saying all schizophrenics are exactly like this, not saying that all schizophrenics have to be like this, and not saying I like the use of the word “schizophrenic” (I prefer “someone with schizophrenia”) – I’m simply trying to communicate the experiences I have from living with the illness in a way that’s concise and understandable. And, hopefully, a little bit relatable! 😉

So, yeah – that’s it! ENJOY – and please note: all illustrations in this post are mine! 🙂

The schizophrenic artist’s studio
Expectation: Works in progress everywhere, paint all over floor, messy
Reality: Just messy

The schizophrenic artist’s paintings
Expectation: Dark and dismal, oh and definitely demons and/or a screaming face
Reality: Colourful, naïve, experimental

The schizophrenic artist’s creative process
Expectation: Chaotic, random bursts of manic motivation, up all night, sleep all day
Reality: Random bursts of manic motivation, subsequent exhaustion, sleep for a week

The schizophrenic writer’s … um, writing
Expectation: Chaotic, jumbled rambling, interspersed with detailed descriptions of suicidal thoughts and harrowing voices, tendency towards unstructured nonsense (like this statement)
Reality: Funny, fluent, creative, inspiring, helpful, thought-provoking in a non-macabre way

The schizophrenic writer’s reading habits
Expectation: Reads often, like everyone else
Reality: Finishes one book, subsequent exhaustion, sleep for a week, waits six months to read next book, repeat

The schizophrenic writer’s computer
Expectation: Dirty and damaged (like the schizophrenic herself) plus a million tabs open (to symbolise her unfiltered mind) and a desktop screen completely littered with files (trash bin? What’s that?)
Reality: Regularly gets hot from overuse, R key that jams, thousands of documents that she can’t be bothered to sort through, 11 stickies with reminders … yet a tidy enough desktop!

The schizophrenic friend’s humour
Expectation: Dark (it’s a theme) and twisted, e.g. “Kill me now” with hand gestures or even paranoid, e.g. “They’re out to get me!”
Reality: A bit random – let’s say original, at best – and you’ll laugh because you feel obliged to, when really you’re just thinking “… what?”

The schizophrenic friend’s friendship
Expectation: Paranoid phone calls at 4 am, erratic and unreliable, a bit of a burden
Reality: Prefers messaging over phone calls, can be absent-minded but otherwise a caring and pleasant friend, laughs easily

The schizophrenic person’s social media accounts …
Expectation: *crickets chirping* … Yep, nothing to see here
Reality: Actually quite entertaining, if you take a closer look

… versus social life
Expectation: Isolates herself at home
Reality: Isolates herself at home

The schizophrenic person’s way of handling life
Expectation: Crying, suffering, wailing, suffering, doing shit the voices tell her to do, suffering, smoking, suffering
Reality: Eat, sleep, aimlessly wing it, repeat

The schizophrenic patient’s thought processes while talking to her psychiatric nurse
Expectation: *OMG WHAT IF I SAY SOMETHING THAT MAKES HER SECTION ME*
Reality: *I’m just going to say what’s on my mind because otherwise I’ll never move forward in my life* “Is blinking a lot a side effect of medication?”

The schizophrenic family member’s behaviour at family gatherings
Expectation: Eccentric, antisocial, sits muttering in corner
Reality: Quiet, but otherwise present (if she hasn’t zoned out due to too many impressions)

The schizophrenic girlfriend
Expectation: Deeply empathetic because she knows what it means to suffer
Reality: What girlfriend?

The schizophrenic classmate
Expectation: Planning to murder everyone
Reality: Never speaks, but NOT planning to murder everyone, probably good at written work, a bit eccentric, likeable, enjoys manga

The schizophrenic colleague
Expectation: Never had one
Reality: Probably not in work because their illness struck before they could finish their education

The schizophrenic bullying victim’s reaction
Expectation: Screaming, shouting and ultimately violent
Reality: Sad, reserved, quiet – blaming themselves and withdrawing from others

The schizophrenic young adult’s taste in music
Expectation: Hard rock, thrash metal etc. Anything that conveys ANGER and SUFFERING
Reality: Pop and mainstream hits all the way!

The schizophrenic fashionista’s style
Expectation: Shabby, unkempt, looks like they haven’t washed for days
Reality: Likes colours, unique, comfy but coordinated

The schizophrenic party-giver’s hosting style
Expectation: A terrible host, clueless, inattentive
Reality: Can host a small get-together with plenty of support from family and friends

As you can tell, I had fun with this 😉 I hope you did, too.

Feel free to share!

Love, Georgia

INDSIGT

Manglende sygdomsindsigt er et almindeligt symptom ved skizofreni.

Jeg havde det selv i en periode, da jeg havde det allerværst – jeg mente ikke, jeg var syg, og da heller ikke, at jeg hørte til på den psykiatriske afdeling. Og det sagde jeg gentagne gange til sygeplejerskerne. Det var før, jeg blev medicineret, fik lidt mere ro på og gradvist blev mere ’bevidst’ omkring de negative, ondskabsfulde stemmer, der råbte og skreg ad mig 24/7 i mit hoved. Desuden var der også et element af ”JEG VIL TILBAGE TIL MIT LIV, OG DET SKAL VÆRE NU!”, der spillede ind, men det er en anden historie!

Nå, men i dag vil jeg forsøge at sætte ord på de tanker, jeg har omkring manglende INDSIGT generelt – altså ikke kun manglende sygdomsindsigt, som jeg trods alt ’kun’ oplevede i en periode. Det stilnede af, da jeg – efter mange ugers behandling – blev klar over, at noget ikke var, som det skulle være.

Indsigt er noget, jeg længe har kæmpet med – og for at opnå. Indsigt er, når man er klar over, hvorfor noget hænger sammen, som det gør. Forståelse. Erfaring. Erkendelse, om du vil. Jeg har haft mange ’aha-øjeblikke’ i løbet af min recovery-proces. Det er befriende at nå til den erkendelse, for eksempel, at mange af ens barrierer kun findes oppe i ens eget hoved. (Det er en evig rejse …)

Og et af disse øjeblikke havde jeg forleden, da jeg tænkte på mine vanskeligheder ved kommunikation, min ensomhed og hvorfor jeg egentlig har haft det så svært socialt hele min skoletid. Hvad var det, jeg gjorde, som lagde op til, at jeg skulle mobbes og ekskluderes? Hvorfor blev ’ingen andre’ så synligt ramt?

Svarene fandt jeg aldrig. Jeg kunne simpelthen ikke begribe det. At gøre en anden ked af det har aldrig været noget, jeg bevidst har stilet efter. Så hele konceptet var et mysterium for mig! Hvad fik dem til at gøre det? Hvorfor kunne de ikke lade mig være i fred? Hvad fik de ud af det? Hvordan gavnede det dem? Spørgsmålene var mange, og i min desperation trak jeg mig (for at undgå mere smerte) og afreagerede på mine nærmeste, hvilket jo heller ikke hjalp min situation.

MEN: Takket være flere års afstand til hele situationen og en god portion modenhed er jeg nu meget mere afklaret med hensyn til alt det, der skete. Tingene er bedre nu.

Derfor har jeg også i dag mere overskud til at fortælle om, hvad jeg har lært omkring hvad jeg formoder er skizofreniens indflydelse på ens indsigt, kommunikation, initiativtagen og socialt samvær.

Jeg har før – i et indlæg om mobning – skrevet om, hvordan jeg oplevede ’de andre’ (mine jævnaldrende) som stærkere end jeg, fordi de ’i det mindste var en del af fællesskabet’ – og at det derfor mest var op til DEM at lære MIG at kende. Jeg var jo tydeligt genert og hæmmet, de kunne snakke uden problemer – så det var da klart, ikke?! Selvfølgelig kunne – og skulle – de tage initiativ, når nu det var nemmere for dem.

Så ville det også blive nemmere for mig, for jeg finder det ekstremt svært at tage initiativ, men har det fint med at svare på spørgsmål og henvendelser.

Det kunne jeg bare ikke forvente, at mine jævnaldrende vidste.

Jeg har fået at vide, at man troede, jeg var snob, fordi jeg ikke sagde noget.

Det har noget at gøre med, hvor tryg, jeg føler mig. Hvis du tydeligt viser interesse, ja, så er jeg mere komfortabel, end hvis jeg selv skal initiere kontakten – med det sidste føler jeg mig virkelig på usikker grund. Og jeg har hidtil troet, at jeg ’klarede mig normalt’ på den front – altså med hensyn til, hvor meget jeg deltager i en samtale og sociale sammenhænge generelt.

Men ved nærmere refleksion er det blevet klart for mig, at jeg nok ikke altid har klaret mig lige så ’normalt’, som jeg ’troede’.

Og jeg forstår bedre nu, hvorfor jeg blev stemplet som ’den stille pige’.

For jeg siger ikke noget.

Jeg tænker en hel masse, men det kommer aldrig ud.

Ikke før nu. Ikke før jeg oprettede min blog.

Det har været svært at erkende – at det billede, jeg havde af mig selv, som selvsikker, ’normal’ pige ikke stemte overens med det billede, andre havde af mig. Det var et knæk på selvtilliden. Jeg følte mig flov, dum og ’blottet’. Som om, at alle andre vidste noget om mig, som jeg hidtil havde troet var opakt. Ligesom at være i en af de der ubehagelige drømme, hvor man pludseligt står splitternøgen foran andre. Det føltes ikke rart. Og jeg var bange. Vidste ikke, hvordan jeg skulle håndtere det. Så jeg trak mig mere ind i mig selv – måske i håbet om, at det lille stykke af mig, som ikke var tilgængeligt for andre, kunne bevares.

Så alt i alt åbnede jeg aldrig rigtigt op for andre. Det var fint i folkeskoletiden, for det var en måde at beskytte mig selv på – mod mobningen. Men da jeg nåede til gymnasiet og mødte en hel masse søde mennesker, der rent faktisk ville lære mig at kende, så anede jeg jo ikke, hvordan jeg skulle gribe det an! Jeg var jo stadigvæk den generte, hæmmede pige, der ikke havde fået øvet sig socialt, og dermed fortsat isolerede mig lidt fra andre. Hvis bare jeg havde haft de fornødne evner … ja, så havde jeg måske henvendt mig til den fyr, der konstant smilede til mig til gymnasiefesten – og ikke blot smilet tilbage og gået videre. Så havde jeg måske sagt den sjove kommentar, jeg tænkte på i timen, og fået de andre til at grine – i stedet for at holde den for mig selv. Så havde jeg måske opfanget alle de signaler, jeg nu i bagklogskabens klare lys kan se var venlig interesse i mig, men som jeg ikke dengang var i stand til at handle på.

I kan godt se, at det er noget, jeg har tænkt over, ikke? Man går og tænker over disse ting, mange år efter. Hvad nu hvis, hvad nu hvis.

Tænk, hvis jeg ikke havde haft sygdommen. Ja, så havde jeg højst sandsynligt været en forholdsvis udadvendt, social person. Det tror jeg. For jeg er glad for at være social. Jeg havde nok aldrig været partypigen eller festens midtpunkt, men jeg havde da været mere opsøgende og initiativrig.

Jeg husker, dengang jeg var indlagt og nærmest tiggede og bad sygeplejerskerne om ikke jeg kunne få lov til at komme ud på den åbne afdeling, hvor de andre patienter var. Der skulle gå tre måneder, før jeg var robust nok til at kunne omgås andre, og selv da foregik det meeeget langsomt og gradvist – i små, overkommelige trin.

Jeg husker også, at jeg fik en læge, V, som kontaktperson. Hun var rigtig sød og forstående. Og tålmodig. For jeg spurgte hende frustreret igen og igen – hver gang jeg var til samtale med hende – ”Hvorfor snakker de andre ikke til mig?” Hun kunne ikke give mig et tilfredsstillende svar. Hvordan skulle hun også kunne svare på det? Og nu kan jeg godt se, at det jo nok var, fordi jeg ikke selv gjorde så meget for selv at henvende mig, men i gamle dage kunne jeg gå og koge indeni over det. Føle, at jeg ’fortjente mere’.

For det er så nemt at falde i ’de-skal-gøre-mere-for-mig’-fælden. Så nemt at forvente for meget af andre og blive ’doven’. Og jeg tænker, det er her, skizofrenien spiller ind mht. indsigt; alt det, den gør ved én – stemmer i hovedet, ambivalens, lav motivation, kognitive vanskeligheder – og ikke mindst vanskeligheder ved kommunikation! – ja, så bliver man da indadvendt og lever meget ’i sit eget hoved’. Så meget, at man ikke kan se, hvordan man er over for andre.

Sådan var det i hvert fald for mig.

Nogle gange tænker jeg, at måske er alt det dér med kommunikation og det sociale ikke ’det værd’, i sidste ende. Forstå mig ret, jeg vil fortsat gøre mit bedste for at blive bedre til at sætte ord på mine tanker og dele dem med andre (også mundtligt, altså). Men at være social på den ’almindelige’ måde, som andre unge, kræver også en pokkers masse energi, jeg ikke har. Og derfor er jeg vel nået dertil, hvor jeg skal droppe nogle af de forestillinger, jeg har haft omkring min ’sociale identitet’. For eksempel siger jeg næsten altid nej til invitationer til fx fødselsdagsfester, housewarming eller andre begivenheder, hvis jeg ikke kender så mange, der skal med. Jeg vil langt hellere fejre mine veninder stille og roligt på et andet tidspunkt, hvor vi kan mødes en til en. Jeg er så utrolig heldig at have nogle fantastiske veninder, der altid inviterer mig (og det er vigtigt at blive budt invitationen!), men som også har fuld forståelse for, at jeg som udgangspunkt vil takke nej. Det har været svært at nå til den erkendelse, at jeg ikke kan så meget som andre unge, og især, når jeg ellers gerne ville med – men her står jeg, og jeg er ikke blevet sygere af det!

Så, ja. Indsigt, hvad? En svær størrelse.

Jeg håber, I blev klogere på, hvordan jeg har haft det, og at jeg måske kan hjælpe andre med mine ord – andre, der måske går og tænker på noget af det samme, men ikke kan sætte ord på det. Jeg kunne i hvert fald godt selv have brugt noget af dette, da jeg havde det sværest.

Hej med jer!

Velkommen til min nye hjemmeside! 🙂

Det er her, jeg vil lægge indlæg op fremover. Altså ikke længere på Blogspot-platformen, som jeg brugte til Georgias Verden. Men bare rolig – jeg har ikke lukket bloggen dér for evigt – mine gamle indlæg er uberørte, bare ikke synlige for offentligheden!

Jeg syntes bare, det var på tide med lidt nyt, så heraf kom idéen til at lave en hjemmeside. 🙂

I kan klikke på de forskellige faner og se mere til min kunst, presseomtale m.m. Ja, jeg har været flittig 😀 … Og jeg vil opdatere løbende, så ‘stay tuned’ for nyt fra mig! 🙂

TAK for jeres trolige støtte og opbakning. Det glæder mig, at I følger med i min verden!

// Georgia ♡