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The Science of Mental Illness

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Lesson 5—In Their Own Words

Lesson 5—In Their Own Words

Like Any Other Kid Transcription

Lyrics for Music during Opening Credits

So cold today;
wind is blowing.
You turn your face away,
can hardly see where you're going.

Walking downtown—
Eighth Street, Washington Square—
stepping carefully
in the footprints someone left there.

Part 1: About my problems

Individual 1 (female with depression):

Okay, I'll go a little bit into that…

Before I started being depressed, I was just like any other kid, except I was always in the house or at a rehearsal, or at some activity, doing something.

Individual 2 (female with ADHD, Kate):

I was in 8th grade and it was like halfway through the year and things were just so bad, like, fighting with my mom all the time. And I remember I was just like, "mom, I don't know what's wrong with me, something is wrong with me, I don't know why I'm doing this." And she just thought I was making another excuse, of course, and I was like, "I just don't know". And I went to school that day. And she called the principal's office and had me come down and talked to her on the phone. And she did some research online, and that's when she first pulled it up. Pulled up ADHD, it was just like, "I think we might need to go talk to a doctor about this, I think you might have this." And that was kind of like the first "ahhhh" (makes angel sound).

Individual 3 (male with schizophrenia):

Well, it started back last year, during December. A lot of peer pressure and pressure on myself, you know, to do things right and stuff. Grades, you know, I got A's and B's. All of a sudden I just hit the roadblock, I guess. I never heard of it before in my situation, schizophrenia.

Individual 4 (female with schizophrenia, Kelly):

When I was 10 or 11, I was just a normal kid. I had lots of friends, I was very happy. My parents were going through a divorce, so that kind of brought me down a little bit. But lots of kids went through that, but yeah, I remember having a very normal life, before schizophrenia hit me.

Individual 2:

I've always been a very hyper child, like two years old, rolling on the floor just (yells). That's always been there. But it was like 3 rd or 4th grade, when it started to become a problem with the teachers and homework and paying attention in class and not distracting the other kids. My mom was getting the calls home, Katie was forgetting this, Katie didn't pay attention today, Katie was talking in class.

Individual 3:

I wanted to do my work on time--schoolwork. I wanted to get those A's and B's on my report card. I didn't have lots of friends, you know, before what happened to me.

Individual 4:

It was difficult, because I really got it during puberty, and so I expected everybody else to be going through exactly what I was going through, because that's what everyone tells you during puberty. That everybody's going through the same thing and that's what's happening. So when I started hearing voices and having hallucinations, like seeing things that weren't there, I basically thought everybody else was doing that too.

Individual 3:

I woke up and I went downstairs, trying to fix myself breakfast, then I wanted to sleep on the couch, and my head started to hurt, hurting a little bit. Then I went and ate. My mom said stay here. I was trying to go to school and stuff. I was late. So she came back, trying to ask some questions and then I went upstairs, and she gave me some sleeping pills. I was crying and stuff, and got the idea like she wanted to kill me. But she wasn't, she was trying to help me. And then the blackout started going, and I wasn't with reality anymore.

Individual 4:

I was walking down the hallway in my house, and I heard these two boys talking. And. I didn't really understand what they were saying completely, it was kind of mumbled and I don't remember exactly what I thought they said. But, it was scary and I freaked out. I thought, you know, at first it was like, "where is it coming from?" And I looked out the door and I looked out side and I didn't see anybody. So then I went to my bedroom and then the thought hit me, what was really going on, what I thought was really going on was that people were talking to me telepathically. Talking telepathically, somehow putting the thought into my brain from somewhere else. Somewhere sitting on the other side of the world. Sitting in the next room, somehow their thoughts are going into my brain and me hearing them….

Individual 1:

My depression, I was feeling all the time sad, and worthless, and I had very negative self talk, which means I would talk very negatively to myself. And, just, I was always on the verge of crying, I didn't socialize, I was always working, I was always doing something to kind of avoid facing my feelings, and my fears. And usually in depression you'll either get really angry at yourself or at others. And I was always angry with myself. I was always disappointed in myself, what I didn't do, I never looked at what I did do.

Individual 2:

Being in class and, like, trying to pay attention, and just being really, like, bouncing in this chair, and tapping this desk, and like, annoying people around me, or being too loud, or talking during class, like whispering or passing notes, and stuff--being younger, that got me into a lot of trouble. If I'm even the slightest bit tired, like being tired at all really contributes to that because you just start, you know, that's when the attention problem becomes like a really big thing, because then you're tired and you're bored and you don't want to pay attention to the teacher, and so you start staring out the window, and then you're not listening, and the next thing you know, the teacher's calling your name asking you questions and you have no idea what she's talking about.

Individual 1:

Your depression kind of overwhelms your whole living. You just always feel sad, you always feel like there's a dark cloud over you and you feel like you're weighted almost. Like you can't move as fast, you feel sluggish. You feel tired a lot.

Individual 2:

It's really hard being a kid and like, not understanding what's wrong with you, and why this is happening and you just can't explain it, and you're just getting in trouble all the time. It makes you feel really bad.

Individual 1:

I think suicide was just kind of a route that I knew about and was kind of a way out, but wasn't really the best way--it's never the best way out--but it felt like the only way out. And feelings always do pass, which is a great thing to know, because lots of times when you feel depressed or something it's like you feel like that's how you're going to feel the rest of your life, you just feel horrible….

Individual 3:

During Thanksgiving my mom and my brother and his wife and kids, they were over and I didn't feel comfortable, I had to go downstairs.

Individual 4:

I remember thinking that there were people out there called "the anti's"--I called "the anti's." And they were everything and anything ranging from the anti-christ to anti-impressionists, to, you know, anything anti, you know, and…I had a big problem with that. I started seeing--actually seeing--little red dots in people's pupils. And I rationalized this--"oh, that's just the overhead lighting", but… I couldn't fight it off forever. That thought came back, and eventually I thought "okay, everyone who has a red dot is an 'Anti', and I need to stay away from them." And unfortunately, during this time, my aunt and uncle had gotten some sort of disease of the eye, and they had these red rings around one of their irises, and I thought "oh my god", you know, "they must be the leader", or something like that. And I laugh about it now because it's just so ridiculous. It's just so out there, you know?

Individual 1:

I'm actually kind of an exception to that case of people seeing me blue. I was very much an actress in the sense of my life--I would definitely act like I was happy, like I could do things. I mean, especially, right before the depression was noticed by behaviors that I was doing, which was the cutting and the attempt of suicide. I was able to cover it all up.

Individual 4:

It was hard to manage, it really was. It was, um… I didn't do it very well. I skipped school a lot.

Individual 2:

I hated school so much. I would just do anything to not have to go. Anything to not go and have the teacher be like " what's wrong with you? Why are you messing up so bad? Where's your assignments?" Anything to not have my mother be mad at me, or disappointed in me, anything to have my classmates not be like "psst, psst, psst." Like, whispering behind your back, like "oh, she messed up again."

Individual 1:

Now that I look back, I wish that I would have been able to get help before then, been able to go to somebody. But I was just too scared.

Individual 4:

With this disease, you don't want help, you don't think you need help.

Individual 3:

It was a tough time, you know, a scary time, going to the hospital, and getting help.

Individual 4:

It's just… It's kind of scary, because you're like "why am I here, I don't belong here." Or you feel bad because you feel like, "okay, I do belong here." And it just really pulls your emotions down to the point where you become depressed. And I think most people in a mental institution are depressed.

Individual 1:

It was really weird because when I was younger, I thought that it could only go upwards from here. Like "Just think where I'll be." And I never imagined that I would be, you know, constantly hospitalized and thinking about death all the time.

Individual 2:

I just didn't think I was ever going to get anywhere. I didn't think that I was ever going to be able to go somewhere in life, do well in school. Like, I never thought I'd ever see A's on my report card. That was like, not even something I ever dreamed could happen. Like, C's and D's were like what I was good enough for. My self-worth started to go down. I started to doubt myself.

Individual 1:

By then, I was, like, soloing with orchestras and touring internationally, being principal cellist with a senior orchestra in Midwest Young Artists. So, I felt that there was no way that I could tell anybody that I had a problem. You know, everything was supposedly going great for me. So, that's what I think made it hard. Was that I thought nobody would understand the truth, so I didn't want to tell the truth.

Part2: Some Understand, Others Just Don’t Get It

Individual 3:

In my senior year, I didn't have a lot of people to talk to. I had this one person, Steve, he used to talk to me a lot. And then after I was hospitalized, he wouldn't talk to me a lot. But before, he used to talk to me a lot. I felt better, you know, talking to somebody about my issues, and what you're going through.

Individual 4:

Some people don't understand and they say it's a multiple personality disorder. They make jokes like "oh, well, it must be like playing with seven people when you're playing with Kelly." And that just kind of rubs me wrong, because these people, they don't understand, and they're making jokes about stuff they don't understand. And ignorance is always annoying.

Individual 2:

There was a lot of people thinking everything I had to say, like forgetting, "I don't know", "I can't pay attention", just thinking that was just an excuse. And now through high school, I think some teachers get it.

Individual 3:

My English teacher, she said "it'll be all right. I know what you're going through," you know? And there's some other teachers, though, that didn't know my situation.

Individual 2:

They don't understand it, they don't know. They just think you're a bad kid, and you're out to just not pay attention, and tick the teacher off. They just don't understand that there's just some things you cannot help doing. Trying to express to them to not be so hard on me. Because that was really hard, having everybody just like "you're bad, you're bad, you're bad, you're messing up, you're not going to do anything good in life, you're going to mess up." And being only in 7th grade and people telling you this--it's really hard.

Individual 4:

I don't think the media gives a very fair portrayal of people with schizophrenia at all. It's always--I don't think the media gives a very fair portrayal of people in general. It's always negative, and what the worst is happening. So if it's going to be of someone with schizophrenia on the news, it's going to be somebody who's done something bad. It's very, very rare for people with schizophrenia to have violent tendencies.

Individual 2:

It was just like, "oh, she's a failure," you know? And having people thinking I was making all these excuses. I didn't know what to say. I mean, I said what I was feeling, what I was thinking, and it wasn't good enough.

Individual 3:

That's why I don't talk a lot. I get picked on a lot. At school… they think I'm retarded or something. That's the main reason why I don't talk. Just the pressure. People talking about me and stuff, behind my back.

Individual 4:

There's some people with schizophrenia, me included, that prefer to be called "person with schizophrenia," instead of "schizophrenic" or called, itself, " schizophrenia". When you come up to me and say "you're schizophrenia." It's like, "what, am I the personal embodiment of this disease?" I don't think so. You know? I just have it. It's just an illness like diabetes or cancer or anything else.

Individual 2:

It's hard at first when you're young to, like, have somebody tell you that this is something you have, you know, this is why you do this and that. And I kind of felt like damaged goods or something, like, I just, I felt kind of bad at first, and then I… It's funny, because then I started to kind of discover other kids who had it, and that were really kind of ashamed and embarrassed about it--it wasn't so bad, like, because, it wasn't just me. I felt like it was just me.

Individual 4:

When I first had to tell my friends that something was wrong, and something was going on… actually, I was the one that didn't--I didn't get to tell them. My other friend told her.

Individual 2:

My friends didn't really react to it like it was a bad thing. They were just like, "okay, cool." You know? And I'm like "I've got to take medicine." And they're like, "what kind of medicine, what does it do to you?" And I go "it makes me pay attention." "Okay." Like, you know, my friends didn't really, like, think anything about it. They were like, "whatever, cool. You mean, you're gonna be like a robot, or anything?" You know, like asking all kinds of crazy questions like that.

Individual 4:

She picked me and my other friend up, my best friend, and we started driving along, and she said "so, Kelly, bummer about that schizophrenia, huh?" And my friend in the back seat was just really quiet. (laughs) And I said "yeah, you know, it's a bummer." And then I looked at Alitha, my best friend, and she just kind of looked back at me and smiled, and it was like, "okay, it's okay."

Individual 1:

My friends at first, their first reaction when they found out that I was cutting and that I had attempted suicide, was they went to the principal. That's how I was first discovered, and they told her, which made me very upset and sad, but in the long run I'm very thankful because that got me the first step to help. So my friends played a very vital role.

Part 3: What It Means To Be Supportive

Individual 4:

I think the most helpful thing to do, if you find somebody that's going through something hard like I've been through, or some sort of emotional problems is to try to get them to find somebody that they can talk to, that would give them good advice. If you're not the person, don’t try to do it. If you're the only one they want to talk to, then talk, then listen. But you just got to basically try to get them help.

Individual 1:

It depends how severe the problem is. If somebody says "I'm going to kill myself", then definitely go right to a psychiatrist, a social worker, a therapist, a psychologist. Somebody--anybody--especially a reliable adult--as soon as possible. Even if they just say it casually, even if you tell them that you're not going to tell anybody. I know that it sounds wrong to go against your promise, like in any other case I wouldn't go against what I promised to a friend, but for their own good you should tell somebody.

Individual 2:

Going to a therapist at first can be very, very weird. It's somebody you don't know, you have no idea what they think about you, and you're supposed to just tell them anything?

Individual 1:

I don't know, I just remember how scary it was for me to walk to a social worker's office. I just couldn't do it. And they're like the nicest people, so I don't know why I… I mean, not to, like, generalize or stereotype, like "social workers are the nicest people", but they're not, like, there to tell your parents that you're having a hard time, or like, reveal anything. There's nothing intimidating about them. They just--you have to go to them first, usually, is the one thing that is your job to do if you're suffering depression or you're struggling with anything.

Individual 4:

The first time I went to go see somebody, I was very, very young. And they just basically played games with me, and got to know me and talked to me, and it was pretty easygoing. So I kind of enjoyed myself, kind of started liking counselors at that point.

Individual 3:

You feel comfortable, talking to them, therapists, you know. They give you good tips and stuff, and you just feel comfortable talking to them.

Individual 2:

And for people who don't even have these problems I sometimes think it's really great to just go to the therapist and just vent and tell them everything.

Individual 4:

My treatment I've got has been very helpful. My symptoms now are not as bad as they were, they don't interfere with life.

Individual 2:

A's, you know, lots of 'em. Like the occasional B here and there, but I do really well in school now.

Individual 3:

I'm feeling much better, you know. The medication has helped a lot. And going out, you know, seeing people, you know--getting help. You just got to believe in yourself, you can fight this illness.

Individual 2:

I baby sit sometimes, for neighbors, friends, whatever, and if, like the kid is, like, running a million miles an hour and won't listen to anything I say, I'm like "I can remember being that age and being totally out of control, and not listening to anybody." And I just think it has made me more understanding and more forgiving of other people. And I have a lot of confidence now, and I used to have none and just think I was going to be this big fat failure, and sitting on my butt for the rest of my life, like, doing nothing.

Individual 3:

Well, I was on the varsity baseball team. That was real fun. That helped me get out of my shell, too.

Individual 2:

I think having really supportive friends, and really supportive family, too, like having friends support you and be like, "it's okay. It's not a big deal, we can help you, you know, your family's going to help you," I think that's great. I think that can make such a big change in making somebody feel comfortable about this big change that's happening to them. And it's really nice to have support, and like, somebody backing you up with something so you don't feel so alienated and so left out.

Individual 4:

Now when I talk to my friends when I'm having a hard time, I think the most helpful thing they do is just offer basic advice, you know, about life. (laughs) That helps a lot, because a lot of my problems are basically life problems, just like everybody else's.

Individual 3:

That really helped me out, just talking to somebody, you know?

Individual 1:

A friend who's depressed needs support. I noticed that when I got depressed, a lot of friends ran out on me because they just couldn't handle it, and that's understandable, but if you're a friend, and you feel like you're stable enough yourself and can handle another friend, your support is very much appreciated--a friend's support. And how you can go about supporting them is just hanging out with them. You don't have to, like, you know, talk to them always about their problems and stuff, or, like, do anything special--you just have to be a good friend.

(music starts)

Individual 4:

We've been through hell, and we know that, you know, life is hard. And you have to get through it, and you need other people's help to get through it, a lot of the times. You need kindness in the world.

Lyrics for Music during Closing Credits

I can bend back
and reach the days
when everything was new,
when witches were birds that lived in trees,
when dreams were movies God made for me.
I talked to dogs,
I knew why trees and kids cried,
why snow was white, why people died.
In show and tell,
I talked about the shapes of clouds
and all the schoolyard angels who protected me.
And I am here, and this is mine.
I'm everywhere, flying in line.