Know the Signs

At the beginning, I did not know what was happening to me. My stable and secure life had changed all of sudden: I lost my job of five years; I broke up with my boyfriend of six years who I was living with.

I was very much alone all of a sudden. Chris and our couple friends were not around much anymore with everyone making similar life change events, getting married, going back to school, and starting new jobs. I was not thinking about making new friends. I kept to my room, gym, and work, my Bermuda triangle in East Cambridge, MA. I did not feel lonely. Quite the opposite. I felt determined. I wanted to control my life and give it order and purpose. I felt that I had so much to learn. Instead of eating out and hanging out with friends, I needed to take advantage of every free minute I had to be productive.

This mental rigidity meant that I was not expecting any new changes or surprises in my life. In the past, when facing a new stage in my life, I was always ready to draw on the connections with both old and new friends. However, at this time, when I was not at work, I stayed alone, even isolated. Without realizing it, I started living in a world of just me.

When I started working at my new job, I was in a very happy mood. I would listen to music and, not intentionally, sing out loud in my cubicle at work. I would chat with people in my group and laughed so loud that people down the hall could hear me. That was the me without any cover-up. I was being me, from the inside out and not considering that I was surrounded by strangers I did not know. I believe, this was the start of a sequence of small and large events that altered and stressed my brain in a new way that it had not experienced before. Perhaps, being inside out made me more vulnerable. 

Then the emotional spikes came. Then the uncharacteristic timidness appeared. When I talked to strangers, I had trouble telling them what my name was. I became deadly quiet in social settings. Then I heard my first voice. Still then, I did not worry about myself. It took about three months or so for me to finally had a mental breakdown and called for help.

Looking back, given my isolated and vulnerable mental state, I should have been more careful and more aware of my mental health. Here are some of the lessons I learned from my experience:

  1. Understand the genetic risk. My mother triggered her schizophrenia also late in her life, in her thirties. Given that, I should have read up more about this brain condition and keep in mind of the risk as my life changed.  
  2. Be careful of major shift in personality. I became single-minded and hypersensitive to any surprises. I became emotionally much more vulnerable than usual.
  3. Be mindful of major environmental change. Everything about my life changed within the same six months. All of a sudden, I had to face new challenges and people all around me.
  4. Talk to a health professional. If I was aware of the signs, I should have talk to someone who could help me!  

If I was able to spot early signs of problems and seek professional help, perhaps, I would not trigger and go through a full on episode of psychosis with confused thinking and auditory hallucination. Learn about these brain conditions. Early education and detection may save one from triggering a lifelong brain condition.   

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Writer’s Note: This post was also submitted and published on NAMI.org on May 11, 2018. 

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