Living with a Disability: Schizophrenia

For today’s post I wanted to do something different and focus on highlighting a specific disability rather than an event. Many people have heard of schizophrenia; Russell Crowe’s portrayal comes to mind I’m sure in A Beautiful Mind, but what do people really know about it?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder; one that makes it difficult to differentiate between reality and what is not, thinking clearly, having normal emotional responses to situations or acting normally to social situations and causes individuals to hear voices.

There are many celebrities and people famous in popular culture that have schizophrenia and are able to continue living a balanced life. The inspiration behind the story of A Beautiful Mind, mathematician and Nobel-Prize winner Josh Forbes Nash is one such person. Having hallucinations and hearing voices is part of living with schizophrenia. Oftentimes even with medication these symptoms will never completely be eliminated. Nash continued to suffer from the hallucinations throughout his life but chose to live in spite of them. He took the newer medications at the time but commented on still seeing things that other people could not. “I just choose not to acknowledge them,” he said.

It is amazing what people can do when they are determined to succeed in life and it is important for people to know they are not alone which is why celebrities with disabilities are starting to talk about them more in order to start breaking the stigma. Other well known people who have or are living with schizophrenia include: Mary Todd Lincoln, Eduard Einstein, football player Lionel Aldridge, guitarist and songwriter Peter Green, author Will Elliot and CEO Magpie Media Bill MacPhee.

These are all people who are living or have lived with ongoing symptoms of schizophrenia but refuse to let them interfere with their daily life which gives me hope as a person who works with people with disabilities. I was speaking with a coworker about a participant of mine who has schizophrenia so that I could better understand how to help him since it was my first time experiencing this disability first hand.

She told me about a situational training she went through that put them in the “shoes” so to speak of a person with schizophrenia so they could experience what it was like to hear voices constantly for one day. Everyone had to go about their normal day, talk to a therapist and perform tasks while having earphones playing voices over and over in their head. Just listening to her describe the experience to me was mind boggling; imagine living each day like that.

It is important to realize that there are everyday people living and working with schizophrenia as well as the people in the spotlight, though for many it is easier to relate to people who are more visible. These men and women can inspire others living with disabilities. Being diagnosed with a disability such as schizophrenia doesn’t mean the end of the life you’re used to living; it just means finding a different way to adapt.

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