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what NOT to say to a schizophrenic / psychosis sufferer


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hello everyone !  i recently got diagnosed with schizophrenia , and thankfully with the DSM V the subtypes of schizophrenia got redacted (which i find to be good , because to me it seemed like the subtypes frequently mixed together and were inaccurate)

 

i'm creating a list for my parents and my boyfriend for what NOT to say to a schizophrenic .  they all try to help a lot and i am grateful for it , but there are some things that are just very unhelpful and downright depressing to hear !  if you guys think of anything to add , please do - this list is ongoing and incomplete!

 

so far i have ....

  • "You realize this is just a delusion, right?" / "You're being delusional don't you see it?"
  • "You don't have schizophrenia [because] the people that have it eat their own feces / act generally crazier than you ever have QED."
  • "Stop thinking that ____ will happen , it's not logically possible!"
  • "You're being driven by emotion and not logic, try to let go of your emotions!"  (as an extremely logically-driven person this is so insulting to me that i find myself infuriated every time i hear it >_< )
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"Snap out of it"

 

Treating me like a child or trying to control my behavior

 

Talking about me when I'm present (like I'm not there)

 

 

I wrote something out for my parents once about how I would like to be treated and they dismissed it and just worried because I had been on the computer and somehow computers are bad for me according to them.  I'll see if I can find what I wrote.  The tone was somewhat angry because I didn't like the way they handled the situation when I first got psychotic

 

 

I found a post with what I wrote. (the format is a little weird).  I'm not sure how I feel about some of the things and I made sweeping generalizations but really I was just talking about me.  Maybe there is something useful?

 

 

http://www.crazyboards.org/forums/index.php/topic/16072-how-could-i-help/?p=231523

Edited by confused
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hi mashko,

 

i don't have schizophrenia and i am really glad you started this thread.  i've been thinking about asking that question here for awhile now - what do i NOT say when having a conversation with someone who is currently delusional?  what helps rather than alienates?  i have coffee about once a week with a woman who is still in hospital for her delusional symptoms.  i really enjoy her company, but i'm afraid to inadvertently make her feel bad when we discuss her delusional thoughts.  so i'll be reading intently what you and other folks have to say.  thank you!

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The biggest, most important thing I can say is: DO NOT ARGUE WITH ME WHEN I AM DELUSIONAL. 

 

If I am delusional, I am not going to listen to reason. That's why they call it a delusional state. Duh. Would you argue with a person who has dementia? Probably not. Think of it in the same way. 

 

Edited to add: If I am in the process of questioning my delusions, feel free to say "The sun is not implanting ideas into your head." Just don't argue with me when I am floridly psychotic, it will get us both no where. 

 

If I am going on and on about my delusions, calmly but firmly redirect me. Say something like "Para, I know this is really important to you, but you've been talking about it for a long time and I feel like talking about something else." 

 

No, that will not "snap me out of it", so don't expect that. But it will let me know that I've been talking too much. I'll probably still wanna talk about my delusions, but just keep firmly redirecting me and I will probably get the point eventually. When I am floridly psychotic, this can be difficult, so expect to have to redirect me a lot. 

 

Be compassionate towards delusional people. Don't try to talk them out of it. Respect that their delusions are real to them. Being delusional can be scary, especially when you KNOW you're delusional but can't help believing your delusions. Comfort me when I am afraid of my delusions. Don't tell me "Oh, Para, that's silly" or something like that. Like I said, be compassionate. Put yourself in my shoes. Normally, when I am psychotic, I am scared shitless. If I tell you that the sun in the sky is implanting images into my brain, sympathize with me. Say something like "That must be really scary." 

 

Some other things not to say:

 

"Ha ha that's really funny" 

"It's all in your mind" (NO SHIT)

"Don't worry so much about it" 

"Shut up"

"You're acting crazy" 

"You need to find God" (This will only make my delusions worse, thank you very much)

 

Some other things:

 

Don't pester me to tell you about my hallucinations. I am normally quite open, if I don't tell you, it's for a good reason.

 

Don't look at me like I'm a psycho killer when I mention my psychosis. This just hurts my feelings. 

 

Don't abandon me after I tell you about my psychosis. I'm still a good friend, I'm just sick. 

 

Even when I am well, I need to talk about my psychosis sometimes. It's cathartic in a way. Listen to me. You don't have to understand, but just having you there to listen means the world to me. 

 

If I am suffering from negative symptoms (these look like depression), cut me some slack. Come to me to see me, instead of me going to see you. Try to understand that my lack of motivation and flat affect has nothing to do with you, don't take it personally. Don't take it personally if I haven't got much to say either. This is part of my illness. 

 

Don't talk down to me, especially when I am psychotic. This also hurts. I'm sick, not stupid. 

 

If I think of more, I'll post again. 

Edited by Parapluie
noticed a format error
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"Have you tried *insert worthless suggestion here*?" 

 

"Are you hearing voices right now?" 

 

"You're delusional."

 

"Just exercise and eat healthy, you'll feel so much better!"

 

"Have you took your meds?"

 

"Why are you so lazy?"

 

"It's all in your head"

 

"Snap out of it"

 

"You must be psychotic because of your abuse when you were a child."

 

"You're too smart to be schizophrenic"

 

"You're not sitting on the street harassing passersby so you can't REALLY have schizophrenia."

 

"So how many personalities do you have?"  

 

:wall:

 

 

 

That's all I can think of right now.

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I'm sure others have offered much of the same I have, but before reading through all, while I have the mind to, I will give mine. It's been useful for some to have general categories.

1. Medication: don't ask me if I've taken it unless you are one if the rare few I won't lose my shit on, whether I'm taking it or not. If you're unsure, you aren't one. Also do not try to "offer suggestions" about what I'm taking, not taking, or could be taking unless I ASK YOU. Keep that last bit in mind as it will recur. (Also: do not be a dick and say things like "you must like being in the hospital" when I do go off meds. And don't lord over me that you do this or that and don't for a device think you know what it's like when you don't have my diagnosis because its just rude, presumptuous and condescending. I can't imagine telling a cancer survivor "I know how you feel" because I don't. But I can be compassionate and listen and try to understand. If you can't grant me that, please just let me be.)

2. Diagnosis: don't diagnose me with anything you read about or heard about or saw a symptom of that "sounds exactly like me." Unless you have access to my psych records or I ASK YOU: shut it.

3. Comparison: don't compare me to yourself, someone you know, (even worse) someone you don't know but heard/read about, a character in any novel, film or song, again, unless I ASK YOU if you can relate. And even then, if you fucking compare me to to you someone NOT you or a personal experience you had second hand, e.g you fucking say I remind you of Donnie darko... expect the conversation to be our last.

4. Honesty: do not lie to me "for my own good" and think you're lying to anyone but yourself for your own peace of mind. Listen or don't listen but just say, "I can't hear you right now" or "I am uncomfortable talking about this" or "I am concerned." That said... Save yourself: do not invest in me to some point where you lose sight of the fact that I'm very ill at times and do some things you will find disturbing and/or scary. I try to be honest about my history with those who get close and I'm going to leave it at that in this post except to say that on some level, I generally think people shouldn't fashion themselves into the one who will save us from ourselves and people should either digest some facts, however unsavory, about what it means for their loved one to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and more specifically work to understand how that presents historically presently and possibly for their individual person. We aren't all the same and knowing generally will always limit you in knowing fully the one you love/care for.

5. Clinical terminology usage: do NOT call me delusional, psychotic or paranoid, especially if I am actually sick. Don't do it *full stop* unless I am able to be of a mind to engage in "reality tasting" and ask you. How will you know? I will ASK YOU. Also, don't call other people those things because it either angers me when I realize you're just being flip or I take you seriously and think someone I know is in trouble. Don't fuck with what you don't know and thereby fuck with me.

Above all, I would say key is not giving unsolicited "advice", not dismissing, not being condescending, not being suspicious by suspecting me, and for fuck's sake do not try to "normalize" me by seeing me through yourself and projecting your "one crazy night", etc onto me as a way of "figuring me out." Do not expect me to be your case study, your project and don't expect me to see you as my savior. You may well end up being a point that grounds me and gives me reason to keep trying to fit this world somehow, but you will either have compassion and try to understand and try to be understood or I will cut you off as quickly as I let you possibly come in. You want to know what my experience is like? ASK ME. I'm fine with sincere questions. I'm not fine with being mocked or snarked or labeled or judged. But then, who is? Nobody I know.

EDIT: great post, para. x

Edited by mellifluous
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"You don't have that"

"You don't look sick"

"You are not sick you are lazy"

 

Worst thing I ever heard  when I was first admitted into a day-hospitalization program: "You will never get better you have to learn to live with your problems" (basically the idea of it was to suck it up and live normally which frustrated me because I was in a horrible place and non-functional)
 

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Since a small fraction of the population has psychosis it is not something they have any experience with. So give people a break.

 

Would you also say just give ppl a break if someone said Depressive Disorders are bs and someone with that is just a wuss (or anything along those lines)?

Having said that, of course very little people have experienced psychosis (or other MIs) in comparison to the rest of the population. You raise a valid point. I myself had no idea what psychosis was just a year ago and would have probably reacted in a way that, now, I see as a bad approach, had I been faced with a friend/family member/anyone going through it. In any case, mashko started this thread (or is it topic?) to discuss what to include in a list to better inform people close to those likely to go through that again, not to bash everyone who hasn't been psychotic because they are supposedly ignorant.

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