A Face of Courage

In honor of Schizophrenia Awareness Day, QueerMentalHealth.org is going purple for the day. Thanks, Coda, for reminding us why this day is so important.

“I was schizophrenic, but we’re okay now.”

How many of you have heard that ‘joke’ before? And how many of you know how misinformed that ‘joke’ is? I was on a bus a while back, and overheard some young people making ‘schizophrenia’ jokes, saying things like, “Oh, that was my other personality. I have schizophrenia.” Unfortunately, this misconception is all too common. This is why I will wear purple on May 24th.

In the media, people who live with schizophrenia are portrayed as debilitated, angry, or even violent individuals, prone to murderous rampages, or base urges. It’s not even just in fictional television like Criminal Minds that we see this kind of portrayal, but also in the news, and in our day-to-day lives, like those kids on the bus. The truth? Most people really don’t understand schizophrenia. This is why I will wear purple on May 24th.

I have schizophrenia. While some individuals with this illness can be violent, and can be angry, I’ve never met one who was. The truth is, there are thousands of people living with schizophrenia who you’ll pass on your way to work, who you’ll see browsing the same aisle in the grocery store, and you’ll never know their daily struggles. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told I don’t ‘look’ schizophrenic. Tell me, what is the face of schizophrenia? What does schizophrenia look like? Schizophrenia is a silent minority. This is why I will wear purple on May 24th.

Do you know what I live with? Let me tell you a bit about myself. I hear voices. When I look to see where they’ve come from, no one is there, but sometimes they’re so loud, I can’t even hear my own voice above them. I feel like people are watching my every move, and I often have the sensation that my thoughts are blasted from my head through speakers for everyone to hear. My experiences are different from others who face schizophrenia, but there’s always a common thread. I can assure you, I don’t have different personalities. That is another illness entirely; it’s called Dissociative Identity Disorder. Sadly, many people don’t know that. This is why I will wear purple on May 24th.

Yes, I struggle. Yes, schizophrenia, like all sickness, can be crippling at times. Unfortunately, what we don’t read in the papers, and what we don’t see on television is the success! We see the darkness that surrounds individuals with schizophrenia, but where is the media when we show our courage? Where is the media when we hope long enough through the darkness that we find light again? Where is the media when we celebrate the passing of an acute psychotic break, and feel like ourselves again? We’re trained to be afraid. We’re trained to hide this part of who we are, because it’s not understood or accepted by society. We face stigma, and even discrimination, from every angle, and we learn to stigmatize ourselves! We become dehumanized, we are made out to be burdens on society. We’re pushed aside and our success is forgotten. And this? THIS is why I will wear purple on May 24th.

May 24th is Schizophrenia Awareness Day. I ask you to wear purple with me. Help erase the fear and the stigma. Stand with me in solidarity, show the world that the face of Schizophrenia is a face of courage and of hope – the face of a human.

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  1. By Ava Gaul


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