True Life: I Have Schizophrenia

In the True Life episode, “I Have Schizophrenia”, a group of young adults is followed throughout their everyday lives to evaluate how this illness has come to affect their lives as well as how they manage to cope with this mental illness. Each one of them experiences this illness different and that influences their decisions on medical care, personal relationships and everyday interactions with the outside world. Within the American culture, people that suffer from schizophrenia are often thought of as crazy and mentally unstable. It is common for society to want to separate them out from the rest of society by putting them in mental hospitals or psychiatric wards.

Amber is a college student that was diagnosed with Paranoia Schizophrenia after her first year in college. The symptoms of this disease began to affect her schoolwork and her interaction with the people around her so she was hospitalized, treated and is now doing much better. Upon her return to school, she feared that her heavy schedule could possibly trigger an episode of her illness so she decided to cut back her course load and is now back on track. The illness narrative that she used to tell about her illness is the restitution narrative. She utilized this method in order to tell how she started, how she sought treatment and how through monthly visits to her therapist and daily medication there is a resolution to her problem. She states towards the end of the episode that after going to a support group meeting she was able to, for the first time; tell a group of people that she had this illness but that she was still a normal person. She has taken on her sick role by acknowledging that something was not normal with her health, received treatments and took some time away from her normal life to get better.

Josh’s story is told using the chaos illness narrative. His story does not have a concrete beginning, middle and end. He starts out living in this hotel because his mother kicked him out in fear for her and her daughter’s safety. He decided to not take medication because he enjoys hearing the voices in his head, stating that they keep him company. Josh has chronic episodes of delusions and paranoia that he admits to experiencing but does not see an end to these symptoms of his illness because he does not believe that he has a problem. He uses this illness narrative to display distrust in medical practices and medicine. He has been hospitalized 16 times and feels that self-medication through marijuana is the best means of help.  Josh did not take on the sick role. Acknowledgment of an illness is not present and therefore feels that any sort of treatment is deemed unnecessary.

5 thoughts on “True Life: I Have Schizophrenia

  1. In the video I found for schizophrenia it seemed as though both of the stories related more closely to that of Josh’s rather than to Amber. Luckily for Amber it seems as though she has found a helpful treatment that is able to make the symptoms subside. Unfortunately for a lot of people the medication they go on either does not relieve the symptoms of schizophrenia or that the side effects of the medication make the patient not want the treatment. In the video I watched, the cameras followed two young girls around the age of nine who are schizophrenic and one was diagnosed as having childhood schizophrenia and the other had paranoid schizophrenia just like Amber. I believe that the girls in my video were similar to Josh because it was a chaos illness narrative that had no happy ending. Both girls had severe symptoms; one had illusions so badly that she tried committing suicide multiple times. The other girl wanted to harm her little brother every chance she got, resulting in the parents raising the children in two different apartments. The fact that Josh had to move out for the safety of his family seems to be similar to the video I watched. I think the largest factor that influence their experience with this illness is the treatment, it seems like the patients who had it the worst off were unable to find medication that worked for them.


  2. The video I found was “Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery”, and it dealt with three people with schizophrenia and two people who had a family member with it. Two women were sort similar to Amber in the True Life episode where they were hospitalized and got treatment. There were two guys in the video that were not accepting their diagnosis and went off their medication. Patients with schizophrenia tend to have poor insight into themselves causing them to not be able acknowledge that they have an illness. Their family ended up getting them arrested when they broke into their parents’ house hoping they would get court ordered treatment. All the stories were basically quest type narratives because they all eventually accepted what was wrong and got treatment and are all now doing well and got jobs doing different things to try to bring awareness to others. These patient’s families had a lot to do with their experience. A lot of times it is the family that is trying to force treatment on the patient. In general, “Society looks at schizophrenia with either indifference or fear”. People tend to think of patients with schizophrenia as violent and dangerous. People have misconceptions about what it is or the causes of it. One of the patient’s mother said that she learned just in recent years that it was an actual medical illness, and in the past she used to think “get a grip”. I would think it would be harder for someone to accept they have the illness if they know how others are going to start thinking of them.

  3. Amber, from the True Life episode you evaluated, was a college student, who upon showing symptoms, went to the hospital, and ended up being dignosed and receiving treatment. With therapy and medication it seems like she was able to manage her symptom pretty well, and was planning on going back to school and even felt comfortable enough to tell others about her condition. Josh, on the other hand, also from the espisode, did not seem to be on such a good path. He had been kicked out of his house, stopped taking his medicine, and was expressing very bad symptoms of the condition. He claimed that he actually liked hearing voices in his head, and did not believe that he had anything wrong with him.
    I chose to read a blog about a man named Kurt Snyder’s experience with schizophrenia. Snyder’s symptoms were very slow at the beginning, at about age nineteen- twenty one, starting out with obessions with mathematics, more specifically fractals and infinity. Over time his symptoms got progressively worse, until he reached age twenty- two, where he began to have “minor paranoid episodes.” He began to think people were constantly watching him, and even thought that a nurse was trying to hurt him when he went to a clinic after injuring his leg. Finally, at age twenty- eight, Snyder admits that he became “psychotic.” He could no longer live a normal life, suffering from things like delusions and hallucinations. Like Josh, Snyder did not want to take medication at first, even with the support of his family. Months went by, and finally after experiencing a certain delusion, he decided to take his meds. Snyder progressively got better over time, even though he ran into some speed bumps, such as depression and anxiety, in the process. He was eventually able to return to work and now claims that he feels fully recovered, and says that he owes this recovery “entirely to his medication.”
    I believe there could be a few factors that influenced Amber’s, Josh’s, and Snyder’s experience with schizophrenia. It seems perhaps that the men were less willing to get help, maybe due to the fact that they were embarrased that they had the condition, or simply did not think that they needed any help. Support of others, socio- economic status, culture, and many other aspects of life also can play a large role, but I believe the most important overall, especially after comparing the three different experiences, is medication. Amber and Kurt Snyder both got better over time when taking medications, while Josh, who claimed he did not need them, did not get better. Kurt Snyder even admitted that medication was the main key to his success in getting better and relieving symptoms.


    Snyder, Kurt. “Kurt Snyder’s Personal Experience with Schizophrenia.” Oxford Journals: Schizophrenia Bulletin. Oxford University Press: Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, 9 Dec. 2005. Web. 29 July 2012.

    Schizophrenia – How It Feels (U Tube)
    The woman in the episode of U Tube had a similar experience to the people in the True Life episode with Schizophrenia. She did seem to be relieved when she finally got treatment and realized she was not going crazy. In the True Life episode, one person sought treatment and the other did not think he had a problem. Josh did not think anything was wrong with him so he saw no reason for treatment, he used marijuana to relieve his symptoms. The woman that had the schizoaffective disorder on U tube had symptoms from a very young age. She seemed to have come from an average socioeconomic background. She was a female, I do not think that has a bearing of getting schizophrenia. The one person in the true life episode was male. It appears to be equally distributed between males and females. I do not think socioeconomic background is a factor in being diagnosed with this disease. Anyone can get it. A cause is not known nor is there a cure. The woman in the U-Tube video seemed to be stabilized with medication and trying to live as normal a life as possible considering her diagnosis. She did have acceptance of her disease. She was more similar to the woman in the True Life episode than she was to the man represented. He had no acceptance of his disease. As far as their symptoms went, all three had similar experiences and ultimately got to the point of hearing voices. Josh said the voices kept him company. It is hard to believe that most people would think about it in those terms.

  5. These videos follow the story of a little girl with childhood Schizophrenia. She was diagnosed at the age of 5 and sees hundreds of small animals of which she named and has to deal with on a daily basis. I believe this girl’s story most relates to Josh because she has such a severe form of this at such a young age she will not recover from it. One difference is that Jani, the girl from the video I watched, was taking medication while Josh was actively deciding not to. When she went to the doctor to see what was wrong with her and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, the doctor also said she will not recover from it and it will be with her for the rest of her life. This statement puts her in the chaos narrative category, meaning there is not chance of recovery. Another difference between her and Josh is that the animals in Jani’s head would tell her to hit people, most of all her infant brother. Her illusions did not like her brother at all and would tell her to hit him, which she did every chance she got, and if she didn’t hit him the animals would hurt her. I would say that her family is the biggest influence for her, always having to take care of her and try to find some kind of medication that can help her to minimize the amount of time she sees and interacts with he imaginary animal friends.


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