When Jimmy woke up in a foreign place last week, he didn’t know where he was at first. He looked around and realized that the white walls, the white sheets, and the white cloaks of the physicians indicated he was in a hospital.
It wasn’t the strange location so much that bothered him; it was the way he felt. Like he didn’t feel like himself. He felt bloated, like he had gained weight in the 24 hours he had been in the hospital. But also, it was like he couldn’t really feel himself, who he was at the core. He felt different.
But that 3rd time at the hospital. He had been there 2 twice before in the last year – was a turning point. Although it is always an odd experience to be at the hospital, this time he finally accepted the fact that he had a mental illness. This year has been difficult because there’s such a strong stigma around teen schizophrenia and psychosis. He had to keep his experience from friends and even some members of the family. He and even his parents were embarrassed by it at first.
His parents accepted it long ago. This time, sitting up in the hospital bed, watching the doctors and nurses go back and forth in the hallway, suddenly something shifted. Perhaps it was his age – 19 is legally one year into adulthood – or perhaps it was the third time of being in the hospital that finally led to an acceptance of his diagnosis: schizophrenia.
Besides, not accepting it up until now had only caused problems. Feeling like he needed to lie to friends after spending the weekend in the psychiatric hospital. Or feeling embarrassed about having a mental illness. Feeling like he was never going to fit in, feeling rejected, and feeling angry at God, his parents, and life for giving him this mental illness in the first place.
It’s been a long year of struggle. But sitting there, alone, surrounded by white and by the emptiness of the room, a new thought came to him. Having this diagnosis is okay, I’ll just need to accept it.
That was the beginning of something different. Now, all that Jimmy needed to do was figure out what these medications were doing to him so that he could understand why he didn’t feel right taking them. If he was going to accept the diagnosis, he needed to accept having to take medication and the way that they affect him.
Side Effects of Medications
The side effects of his medications are not easy though. They can cause drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, increased heartbeat, sensitivity, skin rashes, and although this isn’t a problem for Jimmy, side effects can cause menstrual problems for women. There’s also weight gain, changes in metabolism, and even a higher risk of getting diabetes. One time, when Jimmy was admitted to the hospital, he took a different medication called Risperdal, which caused tremors and a feeling of restlessness.
Jimmy does realize that different people respond differently to different medications. The next time his parents come to visit he’s going to let them know that he wants to have a conversation with the psychiatrist. A psychiatrist can work with their patients to adjust medication dosages in order to find the right amount and combination of drugs that are the most efficient and bring the least interruption to one’s life.
Jimmy has finally accepted his diagnosis of teen schizophrenia and the fact that he has a mental illness. And once he figures out the best medication with his psychiatrist, he can move on with his life and not make schizophrenia the center of his existence.
Miller, R & Mason, S. (2002). Diagnosis schizophrenia. New York: Columbia University Press.