Tuesday 16 January 2018

Wexford man shares personal experience of battling paranoid schizophrenia

By Brian Scallan

Brian Scallan.
Brian Scallan.

I was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia (Psychosis) in February 2012 and hospitalised for the first time at just aged 18 because I went through a traumatic event when I was in college in Waterford in 2010/2011.

I became extremely paranoid and was extremely deluded because I believed the whole country knew my face and even people in England knew my face and to this day I still believe that, and I have had to live with this belief ever since.

I got cyber bullied too before December 2014 which made things worse as I started to hear voices and hallucinate, something I never experienced before but it was quite scary and in January 2015 I dropped out of a college course and gave up playing soccer which I love and I lost interest in everything as I couldn't cope with the voices and the hallucinations.

I became severely depressed too as a result. I became paranoid when watching live television coverage. For example when watching coverage of the Champions League on RTE 2 with Darragh Maloney, Eamon Dunphy, John Giles and Liam Brady. I truly believe they know I am looking at them and therefore they direct things at me on purpose. It's the same when I look at a live broadcast from England such as Gillette Soccer Saturday with Jeff Sterling and co.

I started to believe people could read my mind and likewise believing everyone knows my face. To this day, I still believe everyone on a live TV broadcast knows I am looking at them and that everyone can read my mind.

I didn't go back hurling training in January 2015 either and I love hurling too. Hurling and soccer are my two favourite sports.

The voices become very vicious at the end of February and in March 2015.I was hospitalised on the 27th February as I was hearing voices telling me to kill myself.

I was discharged on the 20th March 2015 but I ended up back in Waterford hospital on the 31st March as I slit my wrist that day. I stayed in hospital until the 30th April. When I was in hospital during this time I went through another bad experience which made the voices worse.

I ended up back in Waterford hospital again on the 26th June until 20th July due to the voices but I hadn't attempted to take my own life this time round. From Waterford hospital I was sent straight to a Rehabilitation clinic called Tus Nua in Enniscorthy on the 20th July. I stayed here until the 2nd of October 2015. I spent 11 weeks in Waterford hospital in 2015 and 11 weeks in rehab that year.

For two months before being hospitalised on 27th February 2015, I wasn't sleeping and I wasn't socialising. I was stuck in my room.I thought these vicious voices would never go, nor the hallucinations, and that there was no hope for me whatsoever.

But thankfully they have found a tablet that helps me although I do still hear voices but they're not vicious and they're manageable enough but sometimes I hear voices telling me to do and say bad things.

I don't hallucinate anymore. I have only hallucinated once while on medication. I wasn't allowed do a course in the Swan Centre in Wexford in September 2015 because it's down on my medical report that I am violent and have aggressive behaviour due to the voices although I have never hit or assaulted anyone in my whole entire life and I wouldn't be considered dangerous in any way.

There is a huge stigma attached to mental health. When people hear that someone has Paranoid Schizophrenia straight away they jump to conclusions and think that person is dangerous but that is not the case. In some cases it is but in the majority of cases that's not the case. I know other people with Paranoid Schizophrenia and they wouldn't hurt a fly and you can ask anyone who knows me and my soccer and hurling team mates and they will tell you that I am harmless.

The paranoia affects me more now than the voices, whereas it used to be the voices that affected me more. The voices are manageable enough. They still annoy me but not as much as they used to and likewise with the paranoia. One of the main problems with paranoid schizophrenia is you don't know what's real and what's not real.

Take me for example. I truly believe that everyone in Ireland and England knows my face from somewhere even though psychiatrists and my family have told me that's not possible and that I'm just paranoid and delusional. I have a massive problem believing them as I believe it's 100 per cent true but this was also the case when I was hallucinating as I was seeing things and they were 100 per cent real to me but everyone was telling me there was nothing there so again I didn't know what was real and what wasn't real as I was saying one thing but everyone else was telling me something different. I don't hallucinate anymore though as the medication keeps that away.

There is hope from my story. Although I still hear voices to this day and get paranoid watching a live broadcast from both Ireland and England on the TV and in public and believe everyone can read my mind, the medication that I am on at night helps big time and more importantly it keeps away the vicious voices and I don't hallucinate anymore. Sometimes a change in environment makes the voices worse and can cause me to hallucinate but I have only hallucinated once since I have been on medication and that was due to a change in an environment.

I believe that everyone says the words 'perfect', 'absolutely' and 'exactly' on purpose whenever I'm around them and that it's directed at me and that the people on a live broadcast on TV say these words on purpose too as they know I'm looking at them.

I hold the same belief when it comes to people saying 'how's it going', 'how are things' and 'how ye getting on' as I believe it's all directed at me.

One night in January 2015, from my own sitting room, I heard a voice saying I was perfect. I believe the whole country knows I said that because there is something in the TV that transmitted that out to everyone.

I also believe that everyone does this strange weird noise with their throat on purpose and they do a fake cough towards me and every time someone scratches themselves that is directed at me too even though they might just be doing it to relieve an itch.

All of this is extreme paranoia but it annoys me big time, especially when people say 'absolutely', 'exactly', 'perfect', 'how are things, 'how ye getting on' and 'how's it going'.

The weird noise with the throat, the fake cough and the scratching annoys me too but I have to control my anger whenever this happens and try not to let it get to me.

Listening to music helps me too as it drowns out the voices. I find going for long walks whiles listening to music is very beneficial to me as it helps to relax me. I have just finished attending a psychotherapist in Dublin and I have regular meetings with my psychiatrist in Summerhill mental health clinic in Wexford.

I am currently seeing a psychologist. I even went back playing soccer with my local soccer club Carne FC in August 2015. In the middle of my rehabilitation process the psychiatrist in Tus Nua let me return to soccer training sessions which was great. I was also allowed to go back home to my house in Wexford at the weekends while in Rehab which was good too as I was allowed go to the soccer matches with my local soccer club on a Sunday morning.

I am now attending LINK in Enniscorthy four times a week. I started here on November 23, 2015 and continue to attend this to this day. It helps the mentally ill as there are different activities to do during the day. Back in January, February and March 2015 there would be no way in hell that I could do any of these.

I would like to have a full time job and that is what I am aiming for but as of right now LINK is a good option for me because I am trying to deal with something that has an effect on my life as regards voice hearing and paranoia.I completed a three-day course in Food and Hygiene in December 2015. It was a massive step for me to do this as I am still hearing voices but I got through it. I have applied to do a course in creating positive mental health which I hope to start sometime in the future.

Throughout my hospital stays I have met some extraordinary people and they said that by me telling them my story it helped them because they realised they weren't on their own and they had someone who could understand and it was the same for me.

I have made lifelong friendships with these people. There is one girl in particular who has helped me a lot and it would be wrong of me not to mention her. I won't disclose her name because she has the same thing as me and it's a very personal issue. If she is reading this she will know it's her.

Paranoid Schizophrenia (Psychosis) is bad whatever way you look at it. But you just have to keep your head up and things will get better because there is hope and I am living proof as I have come a long way since January, February and March 2015 when I attempted to take my own life twice.

I hope by me telling my story that it will help other people in some shape or form because if I can do it anyone can. Athough I'm not 100 per cent right I have progressed a lot as I have registered with FAS in Enniscorthy and I'm on a waiting list to see a job coach to look for part time work. I am playing soccer every week and have gone back hurling this year too.

I have however started to notice when I'm in public or watching a live broadcast from Ireland or England I believe everyone says "hmmm", "oh my God" and the words "sure" and "indeed" on purpose. This started after one of my best friends died by suicide earlier this year and that just added to my paranoia. I would like to dedicate this piece to my friend.

I'm not happy with the fact that there isn't a psychiatric ward in Wexford where people can go if they are in crisis. Any time I was in a crisis I was sent down to Waterford. It's ridiculous that a suicidal person from Wexford has to travel to Waterford. There should be a psychiatric ward in every county in my opinion.

I have heard of cases where you are told to go home and come back the following week with an appointment in the hospital which is worse as you're not even sent to a psychiatric ward.

There are some good things in Wexford that help the mentally ill such as occupational therapy classes. I am very happy with this type of treatment as I get to play outdoor and indoor soccer with mental health patients. I also play indoor basketball. They also offer circuit training, a creative expressions class and a cooking class. These are good as they keep the mind occupied and they are also very sociable. I've made a lot of friends through these classes.

Wexford People

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