I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when I was 22. I could hardly pronounce the darn word. I had no clue what it meant but I know that people were chasing me. There were these bad guys, a whole bunch of them, bad vampires who were trying to kill me. They would follow me everywhere I went. They would stand outside my house. They would prey on me in college. I could see them even with my eyes closed. I could feel their presence right outside my window.

I also had two good vampires protecting me.

They said they had to keep me alive as I had to save the world from these bad guys. They didn’t have enough power to fight these guys but they had to keep enough by for me to help me build myself. Such was the nature of my delusions and hallucinations – as the diagnostic manuals and so-called professionals wish to classify them.

They just lack an understanding of symbolism and metaphors and they certainly lack a lot of imagination. I wonder how boring their minds are that they need to treat others who are able to live in the wildest of states of what is called paranoia.

It never crosses their minds how imaginative the ‘paranoia’ is, that if it could be channelled creatively, all movie-makers would have to employ us loonies. We would have a never ending supply of thrillers, horror, action, comedy, romantic notions, and a bunch of confusing, perplexing "to be continued" movie ideas.

…Today is my first anniversary … of being alive!

From the crazy overdosing episode that took place last year this very week. Those who found out about my suicidal stunt were taken aback and shocked that I did it. I guess they all assumed that my life was flowery now that the documentary had been made and I had become this "off-meds-in-control-of-my-symptoms-icon".

I had one of them ask me…no, not ask, but sort of question my act as "giving up". I had an answer but I didn’t want to reply anymore. That day of being given another chance at life – it opened many other doors, one of which is to stop answering questions and explaining if the other person doesn’t have the sensitivity or the brains to understand pain.

It would have become a huge story for everyone especially as the movie had been made – I had additional pressures to live up to but that didn’t mean I was free of my symptoms, it actually meant I had to work much harder to maintain myself. Everyone would be waiting to pounce on the fact that “the so-called schizophrenic who was not on meds finally tried to commit suicide and failed” – that would be a good headline for anyone to sell and say, “all schizophrenics are the same.”

What  people completely forgot was that I had undergone surgery for a brain tumour.

I was lucky – even though its size scared my sister when the surgeon showed it to her – that it wasn’t malignant. But it left me with scar epilepsy. It left me with severe dissociation. It left me with all sorts of other new experiences that made me question my sanity.

They can’t even imagine what it is like to live with schizophrenia and the negative prognosis of the world till date – add to that a physical health issue with all the bonuses of my body distorting and contorting to the extent that I started believing the right side of my body wasn’t mine (the opposite of a phantom limb). And obviously they couldn’t see what was happening to me because they aren’t living with me. Yet the question of, "You gave up?" came right out of their mouths darting at me, and left me broken-hearted.

I don’t need a relationship to know what broken-hearted means… the world and the people living in it continue to break it.

Broken-hearted is a term used by many people to describe such experiences. I remember stumbling upon it when used by someone else who identifies the same, and by a therapist who broke the word schizo down to mean split or broken, and phrenos to mean that of the diaphragm, heart or the present-day term, "mind".

I call this experience-state that of a broken soul. Wherever I go, whomever I speak to, whatever I think or feel, it doesn’t matter how close the other person is to me and vice-versa – there is this haunting feeling within of being alone – of unbelonging. This is what makes me feel alienated from everything and everyone, therefore I choose to be alone because that makes it easier to deal with it. To physically alienate myself and feel alienated is easier. To be surrounded by people, to communicate your inner­most despair and yet feel alienated – that is the paradox.

It’s easy for everyone to talk about suicide and how to build hope and how to reach out.

It’s easy for everyone to condemn us and feel pity for us. But there are many reasons that could drive a person to suicide. And this particular stunt of mine had nothing to do with my schizophrenia.

I am on anti-epileptics. Do a Google search and educate yourself about the side effects of such medications. They come with "black box" labels; known to cause suicidal ideations, thoughts and behaviour, along with homicidal tendencies, in some people. If the person is prone to it already it’ll only push them closer to the edge.

Try having to take a pill to help your condition but have the same pill drive you to take your life. That is not a choice; nor is there self-control – it is caused by the drug even though it might be given as ‘treatment’. In short, STOP BLAMING ME. Stop telling me to chill and relax and take a break. It’s not a bloody flu I’m dealing with. I can’t take a week’s break and then get back to work or studies. This is not a short-term acute affair where everything else can be put on hold.

It doesn’t work that way. I have to do everything I do while living in a toxic relationship, and that’s the truth. The drugs are toxic. Science knows it. But that seems to be the only option I have at the moment unless I develop some strange DNA mutation which will transform my condition into an X-Men like power and I can harness these symptoms differently. But my imagination doesn’t always become the reality I wish it to be.

I often speak of choice and say that we all have a choice.

But there are so many grey areas that can get to anyone. It’s very much like having another person chain you up and feed you poison, and there is nothing you can do unless you have some kind of superhuman strength like the Incredible Hulk to break the chains and free yourself from the person controlling you.

It is beyond anyone’s perception to “see” the agony of the mind being chained, to see how you are a victim chained in your mind. Your soul is trapped, scream­ing from within to let it out, and you are consumed by so many voices that you do not recognise your own. You do not recognise the plea of your own soul. You are consumed by voices in your head that you are striving to make sense of and you are consumed by those in the real world telling you what you should and should not do. How can anyone tell me what I should do or not do when they aren’t experiencing what I am?

As I say very often to my parents, “I am not angry because the voices tell me so – I am angry because you said something that hurt me and I am human. I am allowed to be angry.”

Likewise, I say to people that, “I did not want to kill myself because I was feeling suicidal. I was feeling suicidal and was driven to it by this chemical that is being fed into my system which is definitely changing what is happening in my brain as it is affecting it directly.”

I stopped writing in between or maintaining my journals because I thought it was wrong of me to write all that I am writing about, the truth of families, the truth of what my journey has been. I thought I was being dramatic and wrong to speak ill of my life or parents. And this haunted me again.

I know I was not speaking “ill”, I simply wanted the truth to be out. I’ve never received the real truth whenever I asked my parents for an answer. Every time I confronted them they treated me as a symptom or my Dad would say, “One of Resh’s personalities has taken over”. And this somehow justified their need to not answer me. It only worsened things, made me feel horrible that I made them cry.

I was most probably acting out a symptom, and it took me a few more weeks to recover from this. I went back into my shell feeling that indeed I was nothing but a curse upon my family, for everything I did or said ended up making everyone cry. So I withdrew. Silence was the only thing that made it easier for all of us.

All I could do was walk away and find something to do in my room. I don’t have many friends I could talk to. There’s probably just one or two who are free at that moment for me to vent my feelings and tell them what’s happening but it pushes me further away.

It’s difficult to explain the irony in this. These friends don’t live in the same city nor do we speak over the phone. It’s always limited to text messaging. And sometimes I withdraw even from that because it makes sense to choose the imaginary.

I have noticed that almost everything I tend to share leaves others overwhelmed by my condition.

They begin feeling helpless, unable to figure out what they can do to get me out of the situation I am in. And this mirrors back to me - which I can’t bear. Hence I withdraw over and over again, limiting how much I share.

Unfortunately, I saw myself calculating what I was sharing and how much I was sharing with one person. And when I knew it was getting too much for them it was time for me to stop and to consult the people in my imaginary world. I didn’t feel burdened by this imaginary world or what I left in it. But  much as I tried to be open and let people in the real world enter mine or get a glimpse of it, I felt I was a burden. A burden they didn’t need for they had their own problems to deal with. And I couldn’t bear the guilt that grew in me, automatically and unconsciously.

Excerpted with permission from Fallen, Standing: My Life as a Schizophrenist, Reshma Valliappan, Women Unlimited.