Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mozart and Aliens

I can remember my first experiences with paranoia and schizophrenia. I was a college freshman and had just left home for the first time. I can remember feeling as if I was constantly being watched and that I was an alien and looked weird. Everyone told me I looked normal and girls pursued me, but something was not quite right mentally. The delusions then started with me thinking I was the next Mozart-like musical prodigy and had super musical abilities and powers. I would compose sweeping and strange musical compositions on the piano spending hours over at the music building until late at night. My voice performance professor at the time praised my singing abilities constantly and this only served to reaffirm my delusions.

My second year of college was when I began to withdraw from the world like an autistic child. I discovered alcohol and felt better (or so I thought) for the first time in years. I would drive way out into rural areas on dirt roads away from the constantly watching and prying eyes of my peers and drink beer until comfortably numb. This got to be a nightly occurrence and my grades and friendships began to suffer greatly.

"You're drunk again," my good friend and college roommate would say when I would enter the dorm room way after midnight. He was genuinely concerned about me, and my schizophrenia and drinking ruined our friendship.

I continued to think I was an Alien and super musical prodigy until my third year of college. Amazingly, I managed to hold on to my scholarship somehow and stayed for three long years. My college experience ended with me going into an alcoholism treatment center in Atlanta.

"We hope you can come back," one of my professors told me as I was leaving. "You have a musical gift."

My father thought it was just alcohol and I had fallen into the trap common to some college students – drinking with friends. Little did he know that my drinking would become a lifelong love affair with dire consequences.

Life continued on with me taking a string of jobs over the years. Each job would end with me quitting after growing irascibly paranoid that my bosses and coworkers were conspiring against me and were after me and out to get me. I would be under the delusion that I would be fired anyway and would beat them to the punch. I can proudly say I was never fired from a job. Reality was that my bosses and coworkers loved me. They thought I did a bang up job and I was always one of the hardest of workers. That is the irrationality of the paranoia and delusions of schizophrenia.

A miracle happened when a new doctor diagnosed me as schizophrenic and prescribed Zyprexa. Within two weeks, my life immeasurably changed. I got a very good paying job at a major university in research. I got married and bought a new house and car. I still drank, but I could moderate it to the point where it wasn't detrimental to my life. I had found my Holy Grail and new lease on life.

I felt too good though and quit taking my medications. I thought everyone was trying to control me with those pills and was terribly sleepy all the time due to the Zyprexa. I thought I was cured like many schizophrenics before me – a common trap for us. Life degraded fast putting my then wife through hell. It was about this time that I found religion and began to do what I called deciphering the Bible. I quit my good job at the University due to what I believed was a grander calling and would spend all day on the internet reading religious websites and writing grand, convoluted, and incoherent essays about religions, the Bible, Jesus and God. Every night would find me glued to the television to get my nightly dose of modern scripture from Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather. I was writing a new book to the bible and was an apostle.

The story ends with me a drunken and crazy homeless bum. My poor ex-wife had had enough and gave up on me. I was bitter for the longest time repeating for better or for worse. I couldn't believe she had betrayed me. It took my parents swooping in to save me as they have often done over the years. I had learned my lesson about not taking my medications and about drinking which actually exacerbates my symptoms when I thought it helped. Life these days is a pleasant status quo. Schizophrenia still lurks on the horizon, but with proper management I am able to live about as normal as I ever will be. I still have half my life ahead and me and let's hope it isn't like the preceding fifteen years of drunken un-medicated hell.


justLacey said...

How come they didn't put you back on the zyprexa if you did so well on it?

Andrew said...

It made me so sleepy that I slept all the time and I gained horrible amounts of weight becoming very obese. There is also a very high risk of developing diabetes on it and there are numberous lawsuits out now about it.

mago said...

So you are in a kind of equilibrium now. Hope it lasts. Best wishes.

Annabel said...

Thanks for sharing. You are amazing.

Leann said...

I think we all believe we are crazy at some point in our lives Andrew. I suffer from depression, mostly situational thank goodness, but there have been moments when I truly thought I was losing my mind.

You are indeed amazing and I'm confidnet you are helping others to fight their way out of hell.

Josie Two Shoes said...

I really admire your courage in sharing your story with us. You've been down a very difficult road, and I am so pleased to know that you've been able to deal with the issues in your life, both medically and psychologically, and seem to be relatively happy and content most of the time now. You are proof that living can go on, and we should never give up, no matter how hopeless things can seem at the time. Life isn't easy, but you are doing it, with the help of your parents and good friends like Rosa.

Terri said...

this is a good post Andrew, I'm glad you shared. I only started regularly reading about a year ago so it was great to get the background you often refer to. Do you miss the singing?

Moonlink said...

This is very helpful in understanding you. I have been struck by the contrasts in some of your thinking. You are most empathic, and non-judgemental to Rosa, George and Ferret, but you angrily deride religious folks and theibeliefs. I have wondered why your understanding was not extended to them as well.

Cheryl said...

Great, insightful posting. You are OK, because of the work you put into making your life the best it can be. Bravo, my friend.

Sara said...

Since Zyrexa didn't work for you and now something else does, it would be great if you could tell us what that is. I realize this is prying, but is it a different atypical antipsychotic or a different class altogether? I am very interested (and concerned) about long term psych med effects as well as rebound effects from even short term treatment. Recently there was a study saying outcomes in schizophrenics after 15 years are actually better in unmedicated than medicated sufferers.