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Schizophrenia Bulletin vol. 43 no. 6 pp. 1151–1152, 2017
doi:10.1093/schbul/sbw121
Advance Access publication August 24, 2016
FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT
Severely Schizophrenic and Successful? Yes, It’s Possible!
Donald W. Carroll
My name is Donald Carroll. I am 47 years old, and I have
suffered with severe schizophrenia (or schizo-affective
disorder) since I was 28 years old. I suffer constant auditory and visual hallucinations, but I have also experienced hallucinations of touch, taste, and even smell.
I experience a myriad of other uncomfortable sensations
in my brain, many of them very difficult to explain. I have
sought relief from the symptoms of my illness for nearly
17 years, to no avail. I have worked with many doctors
over the years, and I have tried all of the anti-psychotic
medications known to man. I have been subjected to
electro-shock therapy on several occasions, hospitalized
several times or more, all with absolutely no success as
regards finding a medication or treatment that could suppress my hallucinations such that I could function much
better overall, and suffer less.
I seem to be treatment resistant altogether? It was
the same with my grandfather. My grandfather, on my
father’s side of the family, suffered also horribly from
this illness. Though he also consulted many doctors and
tried the treatments available to him then, none of them
worked, and he ended his life when my father was just
12 years old. I learned more recently also that my grandmother, his wife, suffered (perhaps more mildly) from this
illness. Finally, I have 2 identical twin female cousins,
whom are now both afflicted with this illness—all on my
father’s side of the family. In a genetic sense, I probably
had it coming. I, myself, have also suffered greatly and
faced suicide, or near suicide, many times over. Though
the torturous experiences are still very much alive and
well today, I do function, in most respects, much better
than I did in the earlier years. How? Frederick Nietzsche
wrote, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”
I simply cannot die at my own hand, it seems, and so
I have lived and learned the nature of my own symptoms,
very well. And I have learned, for me, how to best accommodate for them.
When I became a teenager I found myself to be a little
neurotic—somewhere between a perfectionist and somewhat obsessive-compulsive. At least an anxiety disorder,
or two. I dedicated myself to becoming a hard rock guitar virtuoso, and I practiced for hours and hours every
day. I became quite good, though I eventually gave up the
pursuit entirely when I was 22. I experimented with marijuana and alcohol during my teenage years, and when
I joined the Navy right after high school, my drinking
had become such a problem that I was discharged early.
During that time also, I nearly died on one occasion from
an alcohol overdose (actually, it was more like alcohol poisoning, due to the small amount of tequila I consumed,
but mixed with record temperatures of 105 degrees).
Since that occurrence, I also had a history of out of body
experiences, waking up in dreams, and even sleep paralysis, often around times when I was drinking, or hung over
from having binged. This went on until I was 30 years of
age, and when my schizophrenic symptoms became full
blown at age 28, I even experienced out of body experiences seemingly induced by the voices that I was hearing. I do not know if these experiences were all just early
symptoms of schizophrenia, or perhaps they were just as
real as they seemed to be! I have had at least a couple of
near out of body experiences over the past 5 years.
In my 20s, I pursued studies in mysticism, Magick, the
occult, yoga, astrology, the tarot, and even other studies
in the human sciences, psychology, and the paranormal.
I excelled in these subjects much like I did with music,
and I quickly became well read. I pursued a degree in psychology, and did very well, though I discontinued studies
at the 2-year level. I was a member of prominent magical organizations such as the Hermetic Society of the
Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley’s A.A., the Rosicrucian
Order, and I was even invited to become a member of
Ordo Templi Orientis. Though I did seem to produce
some phenomenon which left even me somewhat baffled,
I eventually left all of these studies behind me. I do still
sometimes demonstrate a gift I possess with the tarot.
By age 28, I had gone through a divorce with my wife,
suffered various other losses from both drinking and
drug use, and I eventually left Hawaii penniless for my
hometown of San Jose, California. I had some interest
in working in the computer field, and almost by chance,
or fate, I stumbled into a successful career spanning
over 10 years working up to a senior engineer level in
the field of information technology. During that time,
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. All rights reserved. For
permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
1151
D. W. Carroll
I also excelled as an information technology instructor, and graduated over 400 students into the computer
networking field, over a period of 5 years. It was during my first year of work in the information technology
field (then known as Management Information Systems)
that I began to experience these very bizarre and eventually painful combination of symptoms, and thoughts.
I found myself living with a voice seemingly capable of
great powers. For the first year during my illness, I more
or less guessed that I was somehow living with the voice
of the Divine—the voice of God. I was witnessing what
I thought were almost miracles, and the voice I was hearing and living with was suggesting to me that I was the
Son of God—Jesus returned, in a more modern understanding, and that miracles would follow. Did I believe it?
Perhaps not entirely, but the presence that was living with
me was able to harm me, and so I more or less just went
with things until after a year or so when I began to slowly
discover that such was not the case at all.
After a brief period of seeing all kinds of spiritual healers, mostly fraudulent, including well-known shamans and
supposed psychic healers (who sometimes asked for millions in terms payment), I sought psychiatric help. And,
only then did I begin to see my problem more clearly, and
correctly. I was not living with the voice of God, killer psychic forces, the Devil, demons, or even a human ghost. My
brain was producing these rather extreme and “guided”
hallucinations, more or less, for the purpose of harming
me—as diseases are often opt to do to people! Over the
next 10 years, the painful thoughts and torturous experiences continued, and I continued to worsen—as did the
negative symptoms caused by this illness. I saw doctor after
doctor, trying everything we could. Nothing ever worked
to reduce or suppress the constant hallucinations—not
even close. I somehow managed to maintain a successful
career spanning over 15 collective years, all while suffering
atrocities of the sort that one cannot hardly even imagine.
One well-reputed physician finally told me that I was a
higher-functioning individual, and that this illness did not
always manifest in higher-functioning people—at least, it
is rarer. And, because I did not respond to medication, my
prognosis was grim at best. He told me it was likely that
I would suffer from these symptoms for the rest of my life,
though speculations were also that things would eventually
get somewhat better for me. Nothing could be truer, and
today, I manage my life much better, and wait earnestly for
a cause and a cure.
1152
One of the things the doctors and I covered was my
history of drug and alcohol abuse, and of any possible
connection to my illness. Such is not the case, as regards
a connection. Addiction is really a disease all to itself.
One out of every 100 people develop schizophrenia—
either as a child, a teenager, during their early 20s, or by
age 28, like me. It is also said that if you do not develop
this illness by age 30 that you are not likely to ever
develop it. Also, people suffering from this illness come
from all walks of life, and have different backgrounds,
cultural and religious beliefs, and different personality
types. I also know that the others in my family afflicted
with this illness did not abuse drugs and/or alcohol—at
least not to the degree that I did.
Finally, in 2010, I was awarded Social Security
Disability Insurance as I became so ill that I was unable
to hold a job. Surprisingly, since that time, I have been
able to work minimally in the field of website design and
online marketing, as a freelancer. As for drinking and
drug use, I no longer use drugs, and have not done so
for almost 15 years. My symptoms made these experiences so horrible at times that my symptoms do actually
play a role in my quitting drugs, and refraining from use
today. Also, I think that with age I have lost interest!
I drink far more moderately, and not to the point of
excess, drunkenness, or hangovers, like I used to. I quit
smoking cigarettes and tobacco altogether, I cook well
and enjoy a healthy diet, and I swim and bike up to several times a week. All despite the fact that I constantly
suffer annoying sensations, voices, and sometimes very
discomforting symptoms from the time that I wake until
the time that I sleep.
Finally, I am writing a complete autobiography with
the focus to be on the 18 years I have suffered from this illness. A survival guide of sorts, for the t­ reatment-resistant
schizophrenic. I have hopes of shattering some of the
myths and terminology that surround this often misunderstood illness. I hope to enlighten people somewhat as
to what it is like to live with these experiences, and how
to best cope with them, and even thrive—should you also
find yourself without a cure, and death is not an option.
It promises to also have its share of sex, drugs, rock n’
roll, stories of success, stories of failure, and even stories
of psychic powers, witches, and Magick! I am aiming to
have my story finished by the end of this year (2016), and
I plan to release it under the title, The Awakening of John
David. Mark your calendars!
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