Schizophrenia is a bit like thinking the world is a virtual reality horror and thriller game
Yuna Angell has been to the depths with her schizophrenic attacks. She had to be a caregiver when she needed caregiving herself, and her mother, in despair, even wanted to give her up to the psychiatric ward of the hospital. She has come a long way since and is now a mental health advocate in her own right, besides being an author with certification degrees from Harvard in medieval history.
I moved past the “only O levels” high school qualification recently with the basic counselling certification and the HarvardX certifications. And that is pretty mind-blowing for me! After all, I’ve lived in misery, fear and ill health for more than 10 years now. I was diagnosed with hormonal imbalance after a cancer scare ultrasound scan showed no fibroids or tumours. The gynaecologist had been saying to me prior to the scan, “Be prepared for the worst!” I was only 19 years old at that time and freaked out totally.
So I started getting into the New Age, even into the far out, “lala land” theories and practices of the New Age, in the hope of improving my physical health. I met some weird people, weirder than the normal New Age people, and after some mishaps in general, I developed and was diagnosed with schizophrenia in my early 20s back in 2004. I jumped from religion to religion, trying to “cure” my schizophrenia. There used to be slight improvements but they were sporadic and never good enough to create a lasting feeling of well-being. I always felt as if there was a veil that bound me to keep me in a weird state of mind. Around 2 years ago, I went back to the New Age, but this time I told myself I needed to be a much more realistic “New Ager”. I sought out different goddesses and prayed to them but there wasn’t much improvement either. Then I read about Fortuna, the Roman Goddess, online. She is sort of like a karma goddess, who holds the Wheel of Fortune. I confessed all my good and bad deeds and behaviours to Fortuna. I also lighted what I called my “gratitude candles” as offerings to Her for thanks in protection, healings and blessings. Slowly, but surely enough, my life started turning around. It is true for me and it works for me, although I cannot answer for you if this will work for you too. But I know that believing in a Higher Power and Divine helps me to hang on even during the really bad times.
My family supports me financially even though we are not well-to-do. Except for the very bad time initially when I had schizophrenia, where my mom needed to quit her job to stay home and hold me down from banging my head against the wall, as the years went by, I had no other caregiver and I had to deal with my schizophrenia on my own. There were times when my parents had to be hospitalised for some surgeries and my sisters were not around much to help and so I had to be my parents’ caregiver. I sorely needed caregiver help myself but I had to become a caregiver despite that. The kind of burnout I felt often led me to suicidal ideas. I started using writing as self-therapy in 2009 and eventually I started self-publishing short books every year from 2010 onwards. Writing was a venting outlet for me. It was also a tool for me to track and analyse my own patterns of thought and feelings, and to recognise my own voice amongst the negative and scary voices in my head triggered by schizophrenia.
What is it like to have schizophrenia? I would say it’s a bit like thinking the world is a virtual reality horror and thriller “game” and that I was an RPG character myself, running around feeling dissociated and disconnected from the reality. The difference was that it was not a game and I wasn’t “playing” -- my mental illness was for real. Hallucinations, voices and delusions took over my life. I’d see and hear things that nobody else could. Initially, when I was diagnosed, I lost most of my functions as a person and the nurses had to shower me daily in the ward. I even had to wear an adult diaper for a day. But in a sense, no matter how blurred I felt or how lost I was, it felt like I was a RPG character because deep down inside me, I think the core of my soul was driving me around. Amidst all that negative, scary voices and hallucinations, I could sometimes hear that inner voice that must have come from the core of my soul, guiding me towards the Light.
How lost was I? I would stand next to the traffic light and wonder what a traffic light was and I didn’t know how a traffic light worked. I didn’t understand why cars moved and why they were moving in the different directions that they did. Mom would hold my hand to cross the road that time. There was a time when I was partly stable in my condition but had been hospitalised for a relapse, my mom told me to tell the psychiatric hospital that she didn’t want me around anymore, that she wanted to commit me in the ward for the rest of my life. She said she was sick and tired of me and my antics. As a “dutiful” daughter, I told my psychiatrist and the hospital about my mom’s wishes. They were visibly shocked and told me I was quite stable and the hospital didn’t do that kind of things. If I was committed to the psychiatric hospital for life, I wouldn’t have access to computers, laptops or even smartphones. That type of access was only for the most expensive grade wards. When I told mom what the hospital said, she just mentioned that it’s too bad for her and that she felt disappointed that she would still have to have me around at home.
Other than the prescribed medications and hospitalisations during relapses, there wasn't any special treatment that I was fortunate to receive. As I have mentioned earlier, my family was struggling with money. So they never sought out special treatment options and we just went with whatever IMH provided. I tried seeing the psychologists but that didn't help much. So my writing, as self-therapy, helped me tremendously at that point of time.
Life has changed for me a lot since those days and now I am far more conscious of my problem, which is why I also think it is important to take care of myself. I am on long term medications currently, namely Risperidone and Benzhexol. I work with my psychiatrist to reduce the dosage when I feel I can cope better. But I need to be more alert because the medications do cause drowsiness. I am also undergoing counselling with a family service centre right now and that is helping a lot. There have been many changes since I went back to studying. I also learnt to deal with my mother’s verbal abuse. My counsellors are helping me to work on my coping skills right now and they also stress on how I should become a stronger person by developing my self-identity and self-worth.
How to deal with Oneself
I’ve always lived with my parents. I cherish my freedom to have gadgets, the internet and also to be free to roam around like anyone else, and not be locked away in the psychiatric hospital. And that is partly why I’d like to give back to the society and the world as an independent mental health advocate and in other ways possible. I’ve had my fair share of close brushes with death, having survived a suicide attempt by drinking bleach in 2005, as well as 2 cancer scares which turned out to be nothing serious. I’ve wondered if there were some things that I needed to do, what my purpose or callings in life might be, and also that I am fortunate enough to still be around and alive.
I feel truly blessed that I no longer hear voices, no longer have delusions or hallucinations. I still do have some side effects of schizophrenia but I try and manage my life one step at a time. The most important work I have done to help myself get so functional again is to learn to have self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-compassion. I needed to learn to be a mother to myself and to become my own best friend in order to know how to handle myself 24/7. I invite you to be your own mother or father, and learn to love your Shadow Self and even the unlovable parts of you. I have been there and it feels wonderful.
Remember the 3 Mottos of Schizophrenia:
- Accept yourself
- Love yourself
- Look after yourself
Yuna Angell is an Indie author by hobby, a HarvardX graduate of 9 online course certifications in medieval history of books and an aspiring social entrepreneur in Singapore. She has a certification from AHD (Fei Yue Community Services’ school) in Basic Practical Counselling. She has some book titles on the shelves of some National Library Singapore branches and they can be found on sale through Amazon.com too.
Yuna was previously a serial school dropout after graduating from her O levels and was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2004. Her condition has been stabilised since 2013 and in 2016, she decided to become an independent mental health advocate to share her story and help to inspire others towards destigmatisation of mental health stigma.
She personally believes that we all have “mind flu, body flu, spirit/soul flu” and probably emotional flu too, using the concept of “mind, body and spirit” to explain mental health in a less threatening and more personal way. She identifies herself as a spiritual mystic tending towards the New Age.