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W I T H O U T   M A S K

  Interview With Tracey May     

Interviewer: How is your recovery different from most?
Tracey: My recovery is different because I have completely recovered on my own without the use of medications or professional help.

Interviewer: Since most people with schizophrenia are prescribed drugs why were they not prescribed for you?
Tracey: When I was hospitalized at the age of fourteen and diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic the psychiatrist prescribed medications but I only pretended to take them. After being discharged from the hospital there was never a follow-up. Today schizophrenics who enter the mental health system are monitored, told to take the medications and told that they have an incurable brain diease; most are compliant.

Interviewer: Do you still hear voices and have hallucinations?
Tracey: No. My healing process led to full recovery.

Interviewer: Do you blame your family?
Tracey: No. After healing from the sexual and psychological trauma that contributed to my developing schizophrenia I came away with understanding that my parents had just repeated what they had learned as children. I believe in personal responsibility regardless of what a person has experienced and, horrible as my chilhood was, blaming others would simply have prolonged my recovery. When you let go of blaming others then you know you are truly well which applies also to those who've never suffered from a schizoprehnia.

Interviewer: How will lyou answer the professionals who say you must never have been schizophrenic in the first place?
Tracey: The majority of professionals believe that recovery without the aid of professional help and/or drugs either can't be done or is extremely rare. In fact, many believe it can't be done, period. They have little faith in human potential, don't really know what schizoprhenia is or what causes it, and so they don't believe anyone can recover and certainly not on their own.

Interviewer: Do you think that all schizophrenics taking drugs should go off them?
Tracey: Medications are used to mask the symptoms of undesirable behaviour and are useful, perhaps even crucial, during a psychotic episode but should not be depended on as the only form of treatment. As with drugs prescribed for physical ailments they can become addictive if used over long periods of time and have been proven to cause brain damage.  A reliance on drugs also inhibits the recovery process because they suppress memory needed for healing. However, no one should suddenly go off their medication nor should they do so on their own. Withdrawing from them can be extremely dangerous and detrimental to the psyche without close monitoring by a doctor. So, please, if you are considering such a dramatic change talk to your doctor and work closely with him or her to work out a plan to wean you off them. And be sure to have some kind of therapy to help you deal with the emotional trauma of independence.

Interviewer: Do you think child sexual abuse is the only cause of schizophrenia?
Tracey: No. But, I do believe sexual abuse is a major contributing factor. It certainly was in my case and so far, I've not met another schizophrenia that was not abused in this way.

Interviewer: Are you afraid your children might get it?
Tracey: No. Schizophrenia is not a genetic disease nor is it caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. I know my children won't develop it because I know how to prevent it.

Interviewer: Now that you have discovered how schizophrenia develops what do you think families, teachers, caregivers, and professionals, can do to recognize symptoms of schizophrenia in the very earliest stages of its development?
Tracey: They need to learn more about the human process in the development of schizophrenia and about the contributing factors such as prolonged mental, physcial and sexual abuse. Intervention measures should be taken when abuse is suspected before the illness has a chance to manifest its self.

Interviewer: What is this language you talk about?
Tracey: The schizophrenic language is a unique language created by the sufferer in order not to confront the reality of their existence which is usually prolonged sexual, physical, and/or mental abuse.

Interviewer: Can anyone learn the language?
Tracey: Yes, I will be revealing it in my book WITHOUT MASK and you can look for it on this website in the near future. Unterstanding why the language exists, how it is developed, and how it is used to avoid communicating in society is a good start in reaching the sufferer. And, remember, the sufferer really does want to communicate; they've simply learned not to trust.

Interviewer: How can families overcome the guilt and shame enought to become a part of the healing process?
Tracey: Families need to learn as much as they can about the contributing factors in its development and about the medications that are routinely prescribed. They also need courage and, perhaps, formal therapy themselves, in order to overcome learned actions they know deep down inside are harmful to others.

Interviewer: Why are schizophrenics violent?
Tracey: Only a small percentage of schizophrenics are violent and, in fact, studies show that the ratio is higher among the general public. The individuals who are violent are violent simply because they are experiencing tremendous fear, they feel threatened and whether it is real or imagined it is very real to them. Schizoprhenia is a powerful survival mechanism they have lived with for a long time and they live in constant fear of being stripped of that survival mechanism. This is the underlying cause of schizophrenics not allowing anyone to get too close to them and of the language they use to keep others at a distance.

Interviewer: What to you think your family could have done to prevent you from developing full blown schizophrenia?
Tracey: The only thing they could have done was to recognize their own sickness so that they could work at not perpetuating the madness. However, society's fear of the unknown has created an environment where most individuals are unable to do that. There was and is no therapy, no drug, no compassion, to help the perpetrators of child abuse; only fear, apathy, embarrassment, misunderstanding, stigmas, labels, and hatred. All of which are fully understandable reactions to such abhorrant behaviour but we wil never be able to even begin to solve the problem of child abuse by alienating the perpetrators. We need to understand and recognize what is going on in the minds of troubled children and to try to rectify the situation before they end up with full blown schizophrenia.

Interviewer: How do you feel about your family now?
Tracey: I feel at peace with my past and today I do not blame anyone in my family nor do I feel angry at what happened. My past is a part of me and accepting that has helped me let go and find forgiveness and it's given me an insight into human nature I would never have obtained otherwise. My experience with schizophrenia has helped me to understand my family's pain and my recovery has enabled me to move on in my life and leave the past where it belongs, in the past.

Interviewer: What prompted you to write your book, WITHOUT MASK?
Tracey: I wrote the book because I am bothered by the brain disease theory, the millions of people who are struggling without hope, and those who have died as a result of schizophrenia. As a true recoverer I feel obligated to share my experiences in order to give insight to sufferers and caregivers. By writing the book I feel I am contributing to greater understanding of the most misunderstood mental condition we know and I hope that it will inspire others to embark on their own personal road to recovery.

Interviewer: Was it an emotionally difficult book to write?
Tracey: Yes. It was like an emotional roller coaster. One day I would just lie on my bed and sob for hours and then the next day I would reflect on my experiences and learn a great deal about who I am. Other days I felt overwhelmed by the many emotions and disturbing memories that surfaced during the writing process; the anger, the sadness, the rage. After I finished writing it I put it in a drawer and did not bring it out again for ten years at which time I decided to share my expereinces with the world. The rewriting was also traumatic for both myself and my writing partner and we actually had to plan our working strategy around the emotional impact that the intensity of the writing process creates.

Interviewer: What did you use to hang on to, to help pull you through the ordeal without giving up?
Tracey: Right from a very young age I believed in life, in natural things. I believed that if a tiny little green frog was important then I must be, too. There was a part of me that felt I deserved the opportunity to heal and experience happiness even though I didn't really know yet what that actually was. There was a  miniscule spark inside me that never did quite go out; it was an indomnible spirit that was determined to discover my self worth and to never truly let go of my true indentity. It hung on tenatiously through all those years of hell until I was ready to nurture it and let it grow into who I am today.

Interviewer: How do you manage life's stresses now?
Tracey: Whenever I feel stressed out I simply allow myself to feel the emotion related to the stress, whether it be anger or sadness, and realize that those feelings are normal and natural. I also work hard to keep balance in my life. There is no way to avoid all the stresses of daily living but I have learned to address it upfront and not allow it to dominate my life. I've learned to put things into perspective and to not "fret the small stuff" as they say.

Interviewer: How do you determine the difference between a survivor and a recoverer?
Tracey: I believe a true survivor knows that schizophrenia is not an incurable biological brain disease and that they know how they developed schizophrenia and what caused it in there particular case.

Interviewer: Have you met anyone else who has recovered completely from schizophrenia?
Tracey: I have talked to people who have expereinced partial recovery and it usually involved drug therapy. I have talked to others who say they are fully recovered but choose to not disclose their stories because of the way society perceives those with a mental illness and particularly those with a schizophrenia. (Yes, the word schizophrenia is plural. There are many of them.)

Interviewer: What do you say to people who don't believe your story?
Tracey: The only thing I can really say is that it is my truth. No one can dictate my beliefs or persuade me to give them up simply to fit in with their expectations or theories on what schizoprhenia is or its causes. I say, just read my book when it comes out or talk to me. Don't judge me without knowing me. That's how schizophrenia has been able to remain a mystery for so long. Nobody listens.
©Tracey May/Sandra Kelsey 2001