I Am Not A Monster: Schizophrenia | Cecilia McGough | TEDxPSU

I Am Not A Monster: Schizophrenia | Cecilia McGough | TEDxPSU

Translator: Sara Palacios
Reviewer: Theresa Ranft Hello, my name is Cecilia McGough. I’m an astronomy and astrophysics major
here at Penn State, and the founder and president of the Penn State
Pulsar Search Collaboratory. In high school, I was lucky enough
to have co-discovered a pulsar through the Pulsar Search Collaboratory. A pulsar is a super dense neutron star that emits dipole
electromagnetic radiation. Basically, think of a star
much, much larger than our sun, blowing away its outer layers,
leaving behind a dense core – that core could be our pulsar. This discovery opened some doors for me, such as helping represent
the United States in the International
Space Olympics in Russia. And also, being a Virginia aerospace
science and technology scholar. I know what you must be thinking: “What a nerd!” “Nerd alert!” Well, for the longest time,
this nerd had a secret. A secret that I was too scared
and too embarrassed to tell anyone. That secret is that I have schizophrenia. But what is schizophrenia? It’s important to think of schizophrenia
as an umbrella-like diagnosis. NAMI shows these different symptoms
as a way you could diagnose schizophrenia, such as delusions and hallucinations
being the hallmark characteristics. But it is very important to know
that a person could have schizophrenia and not have delusions
and not hallucinate. Each person’s story with schizophrenia
is unique to their own. Today I’m going to be talking
about my story with schizophrenia. It has been thought
that I’ve had schizophrenia all my life. But it became very prevalent
in my junior year of high school, and then it just snowballed into college. February of 2014,
my freshman year of college, my life changed when I tried to take my own life
through suicide. “Why?” you ask. Because my life had become
a waking nightmare. The following images have been edited
using Microsoft’s artistic effects because they are just
too triggering for me. At this time, I had started hallucinating. I started seeing, hearing and feeling
things that weren’t there. Everywhere that I went,
I was followed around by a clown that looked very similar
to the Stephen King’s adaptation of “It”. Everywhere that I went, he would be giggling,
taunting me, poking me, and sometimes even biting me. I would also hallucinate spiders, sometimes little spiders. And these are actually
the most obtrusive sometimes because we see
little spiders in real life. So, sometimes this is the only time
I ever have difficulty discerning whether it is
a hallucination or real life. I’m very good at knowing
when I’m hallucinating and I know that it is
a chemical imbalance inside my head. I don’t even give
these hallucinations names. I also hallucinate giant spiders though. One spider, in particular, comes to mind. It was rather large, leathery skin,
black legs and yellow body. No voice ever came out of its mouth.
However, when it moved its legs, the creaking of the legs sounded like
young children laughing. It was very disturbing. But it started becoming unbearable
when I started hallucinating this girl. She looked sort of like
in the movie “The Ring”. The thing with her was she was able
to continue conversations with herself, and would know exactly
what to say and when to say it to chip away at my insecurities. But the worst was, she would also
carry a knife around with her and she would stab me,
sometimes in the face. This made taking tests, quizzes,
and doing homework in general extremely difficult to impossible
when I was in college. Sometimes I wouldn’t even be able
to see the paper in front of my face because I was hallucinating too much. I don’t usually speak so openly
about my hallucinations, because people usually look at me in fear
after I tell them what I see. But the thing is, I’m not much different
than the rest of you. We all see, hear, and feel things
when we are dreaming. I’m just someone who cannot turn off
my nightmares, even when I’m awake. I’ve been hallucinating now obtrusively
for about over four years. So, I have gotten very good at just pretending
I’m not seeing what I’m seeing, or ignoring them. But I have triggers, such as seeing
the color red is very triggering for me. I don’t know if you guys
noticed this or not, but they changed the carpet that I’m on. They changed it
to a black carpet instead of red. I sort of laugh at my life a bit
like a dark comedy, because, of course, the only color combination
that I have issues with is red and white. What are TED’s colors? (Laughter) Really people! But, I have issues with those colors because those are the colors
that the clown has: red hair and white skin. And how I’m able to ignore him
is I just don’t look at him, but I’m able to know where that hallucination is
in my peripheral vision, because of the bright colors
of red and white. But you would never know
that I’m hallucinating. The clown is actually
in the audience today and you would never know. On a lighter note,
who is looking forward to the Oscars? Hands up! I knew you guys would be interested! Well, if there were nominations for people
just acting “normal” in everyday life, people who have schizophrenia
would definitely be nominated as well. When I first became open
about having schizophrenia, it was a shock to even
the people closest to me. It took me eight months, eight months after my suicide attempt to finally get the treatment
that I needed. I didn’t even have
the diagnosis of schizophrenia. And because of that, what kept me from getting help
were conversations like these. I remember very distinctively
within that time on the phone with my mother. I would tell my mum, “Mom I’m sick, I’m seeing things that aren’t there, I need medicine,
I need to talk to a doctor.” Her response? “No, no, no, no. You can’t tell anyone about this. This can’t be on our medical history. Think of your sisters,
think of your sisters’ futures. People are going to think
that you’re crazy, they are going to think you’re dangerous
and you won’t be able to get a job.” What I say to that now is “Don’t let anyone convince you
not to get medical help. It’s not worth it! It is your choice
and it is also your right.” Getting medical help was the best decision
that I have ever made. And I am confident
that I would not be here today if I didn’t get the proper medical help. This led into my first hospitalization. I had been in the psych ward four times
within the past two years. But I still was not open
about having schizophrenia until my second hospitalization,
because the police were involved. One evening I realized I needed
to check myself back into hospital, because I needed some changes
in my medication. So I admitted myself
into the emergency room. I talked to the doctors, they said, “OK, let’s fix the meds,
you can stay here overnight.” It was all good. After the brief one-night hospital stay, I came back to my dorm room
here at Penn State, and to very concerned roommates, which I understand
why they were concerned – if I was in their shoes,
I would have been concerned as well – but also the RA and a CANHELP person. We all talked and we decided
that I needed another psych ward stay. And I was OK on going,
I wasn’t at all refusing, I was willing to go. But what happened next was inexcusable. They brought police officers
into my dorm room, in front of my roommates,
they padded me down and I had to convince them
not to put handcuffs on me. They then brought me,
escorted me into a police car that was parked on the road next to one of our dining
commons: Redifer, where friends were passing by
and seeing me put into a police car. By that time, when I came back,
the cat was out of the bag. People knew something was up,
so I had to set the story straight. I opened up about my schizophrenia through a blog, but I posted
all my blog posts on Facebook. And I was amazed by how much support
there was out there. And I also realized that there are so many
other people just like me. I was actually amazed! A few of my friends opened up to me
that they had schizophrenia. Now I am dedicated to being
a mental health advocate. I’m not going to wallow
in self-pity about my diagnosis. Instead, I want to use it
as a common denominator, so I can help other people
who have schizophrenia. And I’m not going to rest until anyone
who has schizophrenia worldwide is not afraid to say the words: “I have schizophrenia.” Because it’s OK to have schizophrenia, it really is. Because 1.1% of the world’s population
over the age of 18 has some sort of schizophrenia. That is 51 million people worldwide and 2.4 million people
in the United States alone. But there’s a problem. Because one out of ten people
who have schizophrenia take their own life through suicide. Another four out of ten
attempt suicide at least once. I fall into that statistic. You would think that there would
already be a nonprofit focused on empowering college students
who have schizophrenia, especially since the peak age to have
a schizophrenic break is early adulthood – the same age range
as a typical college student. But there isn’t. There is no nonprofit
in the entire United States focused on that. And a general nonprofit
focused on mental health in general is not enough. Because even in the mental
health community, schizophrenia is shied away from, because it makes people
feel “uncomfortable”. That is why I have decided to found the nonprofit
“Students With Schizophrenia”, where we will empower college students
and get them the resources that they need, so they can stay in college
and be successful. Because you could be successful
and also have schizophrenia. We need to change the face
of schizophrenia, because the representation
currently is inaccurate. Don’t let anyone tell you
that you can’t have a mental illness and also not be mentally strong. You are strong, you are brave,
you are a warrior. Unfortunately, this nonprofit
is too late for some. Since I’ve become open
about having schizophrenia I am asked to come
into different classrooms here at Penn State, and talk to the class about my experience
having schizophrenia. One class stands out in particular. Earlier in the semester
one of the students opened up to the class
that she had schizophrenia. I commend her for her bravery. However, by the time that I came
and talked to that class, she had taken her own life
through suicide. We were too late for her. I was too late for her. Here at Penn State, we have to make
an example to the world, because this is not just happening
here at Penn State, it’s happening globally. But here at Penn State, we have to show that we are here for our students, we are talking about mental health, and we are not afraid
to talk about schizophrenia. My name is Cecilia McGough, I have schizophrenia and I am not a monster. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheering)

100 thoughts on “I Am Not A Monster: Schizophrenia | Cecilia McGough | TEDxPSU

  1. I may be schizophrenic too. I think I see clean shaven, teenage Jared Leto giving this talk.

    (Don't get offended guys, just an attempt to lighten the mood)

  2. I've always wanted to understand what schizophrenia was like from someone who experiences it. She is an inspiration to those suffering from Schizophrenia and the stigma yet attached to it.. Bravo.

  3. My mom was schizophrenic, she just killed herself yesterday. I miss you mom. You were the strongest woman in my life, and will always be.

  4. What if they are just tied to the paranormal more than anyone else. We are the blind. They see different dimensions.

  5. "I am not much different from any of you"
    Idk there big dog, I didn't discover a star in high school while fighting off giant spiders and getting stabbed in the face by IT. You're a lot more badass than I am

  6. My dad has schizophrenia. When I was around 3 years old, he started to listen to things and he started to have several paranoias. One of them was that he thought that there were microphones in the lamps of our house, and he didn't allow us to speak loud or even speak. He also thought that my mum had and affair with other man, so he always was threatening her with really scary stuff. He tried to commit suicide twice, but my mum saved him in time both times, even we weren't living with him in that moment. My mum intuited that something wrong was going on, so she went to our old house, where she found him lying in the coach surrounded by pill boxes and vomit on the floor. He was in coma. He survived. He still says rare things, but not so strange as the things he did when I was little. Fortunately, he takes medicine and he is so much way better than years ago. I love him even I never told him, he is a survivor and I'm glad he is okay right now.

  7. Imagine schizophrenia. But it talks to you. It helps you on test. It helps you remember. And have somebody to talk to you. Well my voice said I should die. Sooo. I JUST WANNA DIE DIE DIE. DIE DIE DIEEEEEE ITS MUFFIN TIME I JUST WANNA DIE DIE DIE

  8. So empowering!!! This young lady is amazing!! I am sharing and recommending this everyone I know. So important for the world to understand this information !!

  9. I am bytal!! That is skiksofeenia, so som poople fiil wold somhau diwrend!!! Somhau Tre is Wery mats gyyd??

  10. I do not have Schizophrenia, but I did spend 17 Years under Psychiatric Care (13-30). I was fortunate to receive the intervention which I needed to bring Me to Normality. Whilst I may never consider Myself entirely Normal, neither do I consider Myself Crazy.

  11. This goes to show no matter what the challenges are you can overcome them. She's an amazing person. And she's so smart..

  12. I can't believe the number of comments discussing demonic possession… Welcome to the middle ages, people! Enjoy your stay!

  13. This lady just is just hallucinating things she saw in horror movies, I am the only one who thinks that's a bit cliche

  14. My uncle has schizophrenia, hit him around the same time high school he ran a stop sign and got into. Horrible accident and that’s when it came out. But he’s been in a hospital most of his life. I was under the impression for the longest time that it’s not a condition you can really have a normal life. A job, etc. he’s on loads of meds he eats administer by nurses. Is this condition on spectrums? Or is he just unfortunate that he was diagnosed so many years ago? I’m sure a combination, my aunt feels that he could have had a normal life not hospitalized, but idk. I’ve seen it switch, on Holliday’s when he’s late on his meds you can tell he’s looking through you and laughing to himself. The last time I saw him at Christmas it was the first time I saw him actually interact and play with the kids and be in the moment💖 they must have new meds

  15. She was not hallucinating she is having paranormal experiences but this matrix tell you there is something wrong with you when all it is psychic information coming in

  16. It’s sad to see that she is owning this diagnosis when it has nothing to do with a mental disorder, the symptoms that she is experiencing is psychic in nature and needs a shamanic support. The medications screw up your head and are poisonous

  17. I get Dissociative Identity Disorder and what Psychiatrist said to me is "There's no cure".

    😞 Hope someone with knowledge finds my comment and give a help

  18. I am schizophrenic. I want to be treated but I don't have money rightnow. Constant feeling of people laughing at me is always there it's so worst I can't even explain. I don't even know I am sleeping or not

  19. I have schizophrenia too. Her pattern and style of speech reminded me of my own. It's like she's struggling to condense her thoughts into something organized and coherent.

  20. So, an ex of mine suffered a car accident that caused PTSD and he says he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia… idk he could very likely have been trying to gain more of my sympathy as a usual game he plays. But could PTSD trigger latent symptoms of something youve always had? Or hallucinations are also a symptom of PTSD sooo Idk

  21. The difference between her and others isn´t that she "can't switch off her dreams during the day"…..not everyone has these dreams at night!! This is demonic; I´m not saying she´s possesed but it´s likely, and she´s definitely oppressed. The difference between her and others is that she CAN SEE the demons. They are literally everywhere.

    Demons are in another dimension and they can see us but we (normally) can´t see them. They are creatures of God who rebelled and have already been judged (fallen) and they are PERSONS but without bodies. They are not "energy" but real live persons, with a will, a mind, a personality, basically a soul, just not flesh and bone also. They are behind crazy things like people suiciding, or killing their whole family and then killing themselves. We often hear testimonies "I heard voices" or "they were talking to me…"
    It´s all demonic and there is a way to freedom.
    You can order them to leave in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Read the four gospels of Jesus Christ if you want to understand more. (same goes for people who have been in contact with "guardian angels" and "benevolent" spirits, or "family" members that have passed away in real life….if that´'s you, you´re being deceived. These are demons, imposters. Rebuke them in the name of Jesus and see how friendly they are after that! They HATE the name of Jesus.
    He is the Saviour and His word is true. Get right with God now.

  22. No Coral, he was not a monster. We treat mental illness so differently than physical illnesses because we cannot see the illness. We can only see and hear the results. I’m sorry that your dad suffered so. Sending healing light and love to you and your family. He loved you all very much I am sure. He probably just felt that he couldn’t take it anymore.

  23. My brother has schizophrenia and is under medication now. I am not strong enough to ask him about how his symptoms are changing. Is the medication keeping the voices and hallucinations completely away or is he „simply“ able to cope them better now? (Please don‘t ask me what kind of sister I am not to ask him myself. It‘s hard for the family too, not to know what‘s the best way to deal with it.)

  24. This reminds me of A Beautiful Mind. I guess she is. Usually, an awesome mind is also a sick one. It's like the own brain working so hard and so fast, that your mind is both a gift and a curse.

    I have schizophrenia too, but this woman's ride is just another level. It's so incredibly.

    I have to say something about her mother too. It's so ironic to see other people in your community accepts you and embraces you, except your own mother. That was my case too.

  25. If you want to cast out demons make sure to fast and cast them out of you. Do a fast where you only drink water and no food. Fast from 8am to 6pm from morning until the evening. Tell the specific demon that is attacking you to go out of you in the name of Jesus. Repeat telling this demon to go out of you in the name of Jesus over and over untill you feel you have said it enough. You can repeat this up to 5 minutes if necessary. You want to keep repeating this to make sure you compeletly cast the demon out. It may take more than one fast to cast the demon out. The reason for the fast is because in the bible it says howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. A lot of times people will try to cast out demons but it wont work because they only come out of you if you fast. Try casting them out while fasting because you dont know which kind of demon it is. The reason for the times I picked to fast is because in the bible a lot of times people would fast from morning till the evening. You want to tell the demon to go out of you in the name of Jesus because that is how Jesus did it in the bible so make sure to use those words. Make sure that you have faith and belief that you will cast the demons out because in the bible it says to ask in faith with nothing wavering. The bible says that if you doubt then you should not expect to receive anything from God. It also helps to cast the demons out if you are saved. The bible says and these signs shall follow them that believe, in my name they shall cast out devils. So just like the 12 disciples if you are saved you to have the power to cast out devils and heal the sick. Jesus is the son of God!

  26. I’m a psych nurse and I have seen the horror they go through. It’s amazing how strong she is and what she has accomplished. I’m glad she got help. Many families try to sweep mental illness under the rug.

  27. my brother has scizophewnia and he hear stuff andhas voice in his head he went missing a few weeks ago and he was in the woodys and was gone two days as the voice told him to go to the woods and something amazing will happen to your life. sometimes he talk to himself or think we following him when we not sometimes i don't know how to speak to my brother he has like 7 medical people helping him get better but it nice cause when we make laughs and jookes we can see he still him like he was before he become sick

  28. I admire how open you are about your mental illness. I was hospitalized 8 months ago and was very open to the doctors there what I was experiencing. They were gossiping about me 15 feet away and saying things like "he's schizophrenic, he's losing control, he's dangerous, etc." Never once did I say I wanted to hurt anybody or say anything implying that. I told them there's a few people I know gossiping about me and trying to ruin my work reputation. So I've gone the opposite route. I don't tell anybody how I'm feeling or what I'm experiencing. People saying hurtful things is my trigger so obviously I try to avoid it. I'd rather lie than be honest which is isolating but oh well. I'm learning how to love myself and not need anybody for anything which is kind of great to be honest.

  29. I don't agree with being a warrior. Perhaps I haven't put enough thought into that. Or, well, fine, war is a cover for love.

  30. She had mainly visual hallucinations and she had insight. That's not the case with most people with schizophrenia. They usually have auditory hallucinations and very poor insight. I think ( not sure) visual hallucinations has a better prognosis and people with it has better insight compared the the commoner types

  31. As long as you acknowledge the psychosis that is present and understand that it is real, you can control it. And thus you can control Yourself. Just because someone is diagnosed with a mental illness doesn't mean they have to be put in a facility.

  32. I'm glad we live in an age when this can be talked about openly, identified, and treated. Having said that, this is too painful for me to watch. Not only do I have a form of schizophrenia, I was also studying astrophysics. This was a few decades ago, and the condition just wasn't talked about. I didn't even know what was happening to me. In high school, I taught myself computer programming, calculus (before AP courses). I enrolled at university in both honors math and honors chemistry courses in addition to physics and astronomy. Freshman year went well, but then things started to go haywire. If you've seen the film The Soloist, then you've got a pretty good idea what that's like. Coding language no longer made sense to me. My facility with math disappeared…I remember staring for what seemed hours at one vector problem, and thinking to myself over and over 'I remember knowing how to do this.' So much frustration led to rage and tears. My cognitive ability deteriorated to the point where I had difficulty doing simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. The dreams of a young boy to study astronomy, gone.
    Ultimately ended up homeless and suicidal – it wasn't until 4 years ago did I receive some help. If only my college adviser, or anyone really, had known about schizo breaks, the signs to look for back then…but no.

  33. She must have a touch of it.I have a friend that can’t even function for a minute from this issue. He is heavy medicated and he still can’t function..

  34. Thank you Cecilia, for sharing your experience. Knowing more about schizophrenia helps us better understand and support everyone who is dealing with it. We need to get past our fear of mental illness to see the whole, talented and beautiful people who struggle with it.

  35. Cecelia, just a question . Were you under a lot of stress or did you feel stressed when your first symptoms appeared? I have a lot of first hand experience with this topic through loved ones and friends of family.

  36. I applaud your efforts. Our mental health system is broken. So many hospitals have shut down that our jails are the new mental hospital. This is unacceptable. Much work needs to be done.

  37. I have bipolar disorder and I admire her for speaking up about her mental illness in front of a large crowd. I think it takes a lot of guts and courage to do that. She's amazing…

    Btw, she's too cute to be a monster. Just saying 🙂

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