"schizophrenia" < noun >
A mental disorder involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behaviour, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, and withdraw from reality into fantasy and delusion.
- Oxford Concise Dictionary

My first hospital admission was in 1990 at the age of 21. I was diagnosed with a drug-induced psychosis, and re-admitted as schizophrenic almost exactly 12 months afterwards. I hoped that one day I would become telepathic and I began to hear 'voices' six years later. Doctors have no explanation for the phenomenon of 'voices' and they probably won't understand it for many hundreds of years. In 1997 my imagination created a war over the fate of the Earth. Those two and half years are covered extensively in my memoir.

'Voices' have independent personalities, use language you wouldn't normally use, and can exhibit accents the like of nobody you've ever known. A precious few may be on your side. Most torture the sufferer with horrendous opinions that can be occasionally reinforced by physical pain, hallucinations, nightmares, and phantom smells. They accompany intricate thoughts rarely spoken about; associated psychotic episodes such as 'alien visitations', 'demons and angels', apocalyptic Cassandra complexes, and telepathy with people on a television set. Voices can be viciously real, and without intensive help there is no escape.

My 'voices' seemed to be inside my head, as if received from a source outside. Like standing beside an open door, talking to real people makes the voices inside the room quieten, as if the door is closing. Yet, if you go back inside your own head, they get louder as the door closes. If such isolation is your preferred reality, soon there may not even be a door left. Psychiatric workers are the last people on Earth you would want to see, and they come with the police. Together these forces may have to break down the door in your head, and the door to where you are living, in order to rescue you. Then you find yourself somewhere else with the same problems. It is all going on inside your head after-all. You won't want to be helped, but your friends and loved ones will have been sick with worry.

Psychiatrists may not deserve to dictate what is normal, and what isn't, they may know the difference between sleep and unconsciousness, but about the nature of the soul they know almost nothing. They have no proof. Human consciousness should inspire amazement. The spirit within us can laugh or cry, love or hate, meditate incredible imaginings, create beautiful works of art, or inspire raging anger. It has to be about something more than mere electrical impulses between neural nets. Your consciousness talks to you with its own quiet voice.

So, what if mental abuse, or a bad drug experience, or a head injury breaks up your consciousness? What if these ghosts, of sentient shrapnel, are forced to become individual entities? And they poach independent parts of the brain, and start talking? It would be virtually impossible to avoid interacting with them. You would be like a runaway train with psychiatrists trying to de-rail it before it knocks anyone over. "Chemical imbalance" is talked about; they prescribe medication, but they don't know precisely how it works. A consummate answer requires immaculate understanding. Yet there is some medication that re-orders psychosis and seems to delete voices as if the mechanism which they talk through is gradually eroded. There are often side-affects, yes, but given time you can acclimatise to them until they become unnoticeable.

After healing, the outside world will seem a challenge, at first, with many ways to keep yourself mentally fit. There will be less out-patient therapy groups, or visits from Community Psychiatric Nurses, and you will need to find a coping mechanism. I find mine in rewarding myself for good deeds. I have an extensive collection of DVDs. These relaxing moments are for an afternoon set aside creatively. I am officially incpacitated. I don't actually have to do anything, but if I'm uncreative for too long I become depressed. Then I write some new stuff and I'm back on top! Painting is good too. I find painting stressful, but a lot of people say it is relaxing.

If you elect to LIVE, whatever you do to keep going, don't stop. Invent your defences. Do anthing to ease your path which cannot hurt your mind; a cup of tea, a visit to the gym, smoking a cigarette. Or as complex, and rewarding, as family life. No one is a lost cause. Move forwards, always putting one foot in front of the other. Keep up with the medication. If you turn your back on the few remaining symptoms of schizophrenia you will rob it of power. Then time itself will destroy the illness before it hurts you again.