Schizophrenia is most debilitating of the Mental Illness.
It is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves .
People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality.
Common symptoms of the illness include but are not limited to the false beliefs, confused thinking (thought disorders), hallucinations, delusions and hearing voices that others do not hear, reduced social engagement, difficulty beginning and sustaining life difficulties, awkward emotions and myriad of cognitive dysfunctions.
Often Schizophrenia is a life long and life threatening disorder. But there is always a hope. What ever the odds you can well manage if not conquer and fully tame the disorder.
Ashish Kejriwal is one such shining example of a person living a dignified and meaningful life with Schizophrenia. Akhilvaani brings to you the life experiences of Ashish and his pearls of wisdom for other sufferers and caregivers.
Akhilvaani: Question 1:
Ashish welcome to Akhilvaani, a platform to “Own-Up, Open-Up and Talk Mental Illness. I am grateful that you have consented to share your experiences with us.
From whatever little I have gathered about you you are a versatile persona. Please tell us who you are. About your back ground. your education. your persona and calling in life.
I was born and brought up in Mumbai.
Did my basic schooling in Commerce. But have always been attracted to Arts and Science. So began my career as a Sound Engineer, Later, I moved towards Music education and joined a J.Krishnamurthi school as a Junior School Teacher.
Soon, I got introduced to the world of Audio Visual Industry and worked as a Consultant in Bangalore. Also gained insights on Project Manager and proceeded to assist in a Taj Vivanta hotel project after that.
Soon, it was time to move to Indonesia for good and got offered to work in the biggest Retail company here in Management capacity.
This was when Schizophrenia hit me.
After considerable recovery, I proceeded to work in an IT company and provided training to corporate firms on trending technologies.
I have always been an explorer and a learning mind.
In fact, my first brush with Schizophrenia had me use my Audio Visual knowledge to make sense of the experience. I remember making a diagram of Feedback Loop where there is a reinforcing cycle of sound getting amplified by Receivers getting information from Transmitters back and forth. This turned out to be right when I met a psychiatrist who told me about neuro-transmitters and receivers.
I use all the knowledge I have to explore my mental condition.
Akhilvaani: Question 2:
You were kind enough to let me know that your life has been punctuated with Schizophrenia one of the most debilitating mental illnesses. When, how and where were you first diagnosed.
Schizophrenia happened over night.
I woke up one morning and had voices whispering at my workplace.
It was harmless and I thought there was a prank in store for me.
Little did I know that it would turn out to be this – Schizophrenia and it would change my life so much.
Akhilvaani Question 3:
Also educate us about the your prodormal stage, the one before the full blown illness raised its head and how did you notice that something was not right?
I have always been in tune with my inner voice, inner guide.
It always showed me what to do and where to go in my life. There was little or no reason for me to consider that I would have a mental illness.
It struck me overnight and brought my whole inner temple down.
The inner voice was buried under the Voices generated in the state of Schizophrenia.
When I found the inner voice again, my state began to change and soon I was restored.
Akhilvaani: Question 4.
Before you got the diagnosis of Schizophrenia did you go through the phase of any differential diagnosis.
None, can’t think of any. I was always tuned spiritually and had gifts.
I was a strong empath always. I could feel what was going on around me through powerful intuition and had extraordinary capacity to see spirits sometimes.
But never considered these signs to be part of an illness of any kind.
Akhilvaani: Question 5:
The moment one is diagnosed with severe mental illnesses like Bipolar Disorder ( I am one such case) or Schizophrenia one is bombarded with series of psychiatric medication, which most of the time is necessary as well. However, many a times medicines instead of improving the condition make it worse at least initially. At least this was my initial case. What has been your experience?
My first psychiatrist was a very bad experience.
He administered a lot of medicines to shut me down. Even tried to have me admitted into a mental hospital and asked if I could be put on ECT as I was a hopeless case.
Fortunately, my family did not allow that. I was put on heavy drugs, with no permission to rest during the day. It broke my mind. I could barely count from 1 to 10. My body would tremble and shake due to Parkinson’s Syndrome and I even attracted Diabetes type 2 because of those medicines.
Things did not go well between me and the Dr and I finally switched to a new Dr who takes better care of me.
Akhilvaani: Question 6:
You are one of the few persons whom I know who despite suffering from Schizophrenia have been relatively leading a good functional life. Can you tell what are the things apart from medication that has helped you have this high degree of functionality.
Teachings of J,Krishnamurthi … observing the mind. It really helped me a lot. I was always aware and trying to make sense of my experience. Had my foot rest in Delusions if needed.
Things changed a lot after my Inner Voice surfaced again. It helped me connect the dots with memories and explain the whole experience with love.
Akhilvaani: Question 7:
I recall you telling on the Twitter that your experience with psychiatrists and psychotropic medicine has not been very good. Can you elaborate on that. Also let us know what else has helped you get the better functionality?
I don’t really have complaints about psychiatrists and medicines.
It is the good listeners that make all the difference.
I have had my fair share of good and bad experiences with Dr.
But the worst experience so far has been with a neurosurgeon, I had strange experiences of involuntary crying when cold icy water or blood ran inside my brain. So I visited him to rule out MS or ALS. He refused to talk to me when I told him that I had Schizophrenia.
He assumed it all to be my hallucination and brushed me aside. On the other hand, he was determined to push his opinion that I did not have Schizophrenia but Epilepsy because I was too well functional at that time.
Akhilvaani: Question 8:
Most of the people who suffer from severe mental illnesses are either ignorant or what has happened to them or are in denial of illness and/or partial or full non-conformity of medication. In such a situation from your personal experience what is the advise you give to the sufferers.
Acceptance and Non-duality of the experience is the key. Once you accept what is happening, you can explore more and find answers that help you. To be in denial keeps one in conflict which fuels up our condition even more as we delay.
Akhilvaani: Question 9:
With stigma around mental illness extreme in India (and even in a developing country like Indonesia where you stay currently) what can be done to gradually reduce the stigma. How have you faced and counterbalanced the stigma around your mental illness?
I don’t blame people who cannot understand my condition.
I myself took years to make sense of it.
And my reasoning makes no sense to others.
Everybody is busy with their own life and it is fair if they do not wish to engage into affairs related to mental illness directly or indirectly.
My approach has been about being my best self. People like me because of what I contribute and how I bring value. It surprises them when they learn about my illness and only fills them with admiration.
I think, a lot has to do with how we carry ourselves.
Akhilvaani: Question 10:
In well being of a severely mentally ill role of care giver is very crucial. Who are your principal caregivers and how they have supported you through the course of the illness (care givers also go through the learning curve) and how have they coped with their suffering as care giver itself.
My wife is the pillar in my case. She notices change in my behavior and makes sure I take my medicines. Which is good enough.