Listen to Charles’ message here:
Charles is a 55-year-old single man who lives independently in his own apartment. Charles’ childhood years were difficult due to early trauma. He experienced physical and mental abuse at the hands of his parents and siblings. However, he did well in school and eventually obtained his GED. And throughout his life, he has held jobs in in kitchens, landscaping and newspaper delivery
Charles was 15 years old when he began to experience symptoms of schizophrenia. Listen to him talk about that here:
Although his first experience with schizophrenia began when he was a teenager, it took Charles a long time to accept his diagnosis.
I have recently admitted and accepted that I had schizophrenia. I was probably—had some problems when I was a teenager, and—but I never paid attention to it, I never listened to the doctors. I never agreed with what they said, and mainly I never accepted what they said. So it was very much a tragedy for me to be in denial. Had I not been in denial, it would have been a lot easier for me to recover. It was the hardest thing in the world for me to admit to myself that I was having this affliction. And I’ve had the symptoms since I was a teenager… I had been diagnosed with a problem and, of course, I didn’t want to face it. I didn’t want to talk to the doctors. I didn’t want to take the medicine. I didn’t even want to have this affliction. And I fought every—I fought tooth and nail every time they told me that I had it, and I fought against it. I didn’t want—I never wanted to admit it, that I had it, or anything like that.
Charles’ difficulty accepting his illness led to not getting proper treatment. He remembers living in fear for a long time because his symptoms terrified him. The fear became so bad that he began to have panic attacks.
My life has been just a shambles with the delusions and things like that, and the terror and the fear, and never really knowing exactly what was going on in my mind, whether it was my thoughts or—I always believed that it was something being projected into my mind. I always believed that even other people could project their thoughts into my mind – things like that. It was really very terrifying, and just like a vicious cycle for me. Never got better, never improved, always got worse. Always got worse, and then it got to a point where I started having panic attacks, things like that, brought on by my delusions and things like that. I was just completely at my wit’s end.
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One of the things Charles currently does to cope with his symptoms is art.
Charles: Right now I love anything that has to do with drawing, art…I love anything to do with military tanks, airplanes, soldiers, machine guns. I’ve just always been fascinated with military things like that. Well actually, on the opposite end, I love to draw flowers. I love to draw comic faces—comedy faces. Just about anything actually…Funny psychedelic designs, you know, I do a lot of those-.
Interviewer: How does it make you feel when you draw?
Charles: That’s about one of the only times that if I’m sewing or drawing or something like that, doing something with my hands, that I don’t have to really fight the symptoms of schizophrenia and things like that. It’s a big relief for me; it’s a release for me. It’s very relaxing.
Relationships are also really important to Charles. He loves spending time with his friends and doing little things for them, like bringing gifts or cards.
Charles: I love people. I love having a broad social life. I love making people happy, you know? I really do.
Interviewer: What kinds of things do you do to make people happy?
Charles: Well, I want to do everything possible. You know, I make them birthday cards. Sometimes I’ll buy them little gifts and things like that. I do everything I can to try and make people accept me and for them to like me. That’s all I want; I want to be accepted, I want to be liked. I think I mainly want to be liked by people and bring them some happiness if possible. Bring them some joy just from socializing with them, you know? That’s what I’d like to achieve somehow.
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Although Charles values his relationships, he worries about how others perceive him. He believes that he is a good, considerate person but is scared that people won’t want to be around him and are afraid of him because of his mental illness.
I was really scared that people would label me, and I was really scared that they would not want to associate with me and that they might even be afraid of me, to a certain extent. Because they’d say, “Well, he’s crazy. He’s not right. He’s not normal.” And, you know, maybe they might avoid me.
Charles has hopes and dreams for his life, particularly the dream to be normal.
Charles: And I don’t know what the word ‘normal’ is, but my dream is to be normal. That’s the only thing I want to be. I want to be labeled as ‘normal.’ I don’t want to be labeled with an illness. I don’t want them to say, he has a broken arm, he has a broken brain. I want them to say, he’s okay. He’s finally one whole person. He’s finally normal. He doesn’t have to worry about schizophrenia, you know. I mean, even sitting here, I’m not nervous but I’m more or less—I’m not really having an anxiety attack, but the fear that something will pop into my mind or something like that is almost always there.
Interviewer: So normal would be a day without that happening?
Charles: Yeah, exactly. That’s my only dream in life, to be normal again, and to be in society looked at from others—even any doctors, even any psychiatry or anything like that, he’s A-OK. He doesn’t have this illness, he’s healed, he’s better now. I mean, if you break your arm, it’ll heal. I don’t know if my brain will heal or not, but it seems to be to a certain extent. And then again, some days it’s worse than others.
Charles: But being normal would be my only goal. If I thought I could give every penny, dollar, clothing, anything, just to be normal again, I would do it. I’d start out as a baby, you know, completely naked, and I think I’d be happy. I really do, because I don’t see any material wealth in my life at all making me happy at all. No cars, no houses, no money. I just want to have a normal brain… I think I could really achieve a lot more. I could really do a lot more for myself. I could possibly get a good, better job, whatever. Instead of being a burden to society, I could be a help to society.
Charles hopes that others will not let their symptoms get as bad as his did and encourages them to seek treatment.
I mean, my advice is don’t let yourself get that way. Seek help. If you feel there’s something wrong, find a doctor, find a nurse, find a friend, find a preacher, anyone who knows something about this and can help you with it because there are people out there who do care. They really do, and they can help you. But you have to put one foot forward. You have to do it yourself also. People—they will help you but they can’t do it without your help. They’re not going to just act unless you let them know what’s going on.
After years of struggling to accept what he was experiencing, Charles finally believes he is now on the road to recovery and better able to manage his symptoms.
Listen to Charles talk about getting better here:
When Charles was asked what he most wants people to know about him, he stated:
I think the thing that I would most want people to know about me is that no matter how sick or ill you are, you can get better. And I’m proof of that. No matter what you feel about yourself, there is a better—there’s a solution to your problem. And there are people out there who want to help you, and there are people that will help you. Seek them out. Don’t stay in a state of denial. You’ve got—you know, if you have a problem, try to accept it, as hard as it may be, and work on recovering.
Listen to the above excerpt here: