Tuesday, 4 December 2012

What's in a name?

A couple of days ago, I semi-jokingly asked a question on Twitter. I had one answer which, in a nutshell, said yes. So what was the question?

"Thinking of changing my @ name. I don't feel very schizophrenic-y now I don't hear voices or have frequent intrusive thoughts."

For those not on Twitter, my "@ name" is @SchizophrenicGB. The first part, Schizophrenic, I chose for obvious reasons. The second part, GB, was chosen because I joined Twitter during the Olympics (2nd August) and there was all the hype over here about Team GB (Great Britain). I decided to use GB because, like a lemming, I followed the crowd and joined in with all the Greatest Team Ever malarkey.

So, now I've explained all that, my question as to whether or not I'll change my @ name, there are reasons why I should keep it and reasons why I should change it. I should keep it because it's the name I joined with, it symbolises my diagnosis and nationality and it's annoying having to change it. I should change it because, like the responder said, my illness doesn't define who I am. I am not schizophrenic by name. I am me. A British girl who likes to think she's Welsh but as she wasn't born in Wales and (admittedly) can't speak the Welsh language, she always gives her nationality as British. After all, it's better to be British than English right?! (That was a joke by the way. Political Correctness demands that I point that out.)

Again, on the topic of Twitter, I recently decided to change the Twitter name (it's different to the @ name) I was using, Freakshow, to the name Katy. You may have noticed that I also changed it on here too. When I first started this blog and the "writings" (AKA my book) I used a variety of nicknames to hide my identity. But the blog and my writings were to help raise awareness and to fight stigma. How on earth can I raise awareness and fight stigma without revealing who I am? That's like going on TV and encouraging women to go out without make up on whilst wearing a paper bag on my head. I haven't revealed my full name though as that is a decision I will make with my family in time. Through the encouragement I have received here and on Twitter, I would love to be able to "out myself" fully. Hopefully one day I will have the courage to. Revealing my identity would help to make my writing more credible!

So back to the original question and where I was saying I am not schizophrenic by name. Now you know my name. I am Katy. I am not Schizophrenic Katy. I am not Crazy Katy (or Krazy Katy for alliteration's sake). I am Katy. A twenty-something who happens to have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. After all, do you hear of many "Diabetic Dan's" or "Asthmatic Amy's"? So why should I use an @ name on Twitter where I am SchizophrenicGB?

Maybe I should keep the name. After all, it's a diagnosis I received a few years ago that has stuck and will probably stick for a bit longer. While I maybe shouldn't call myself schizophrenic, I also shouldn't hide away from the diagnosis in shame and/or fear. After all, with the Schizophrenia Commission refusing to change the name of schizophrenia, the diagnosis will no doubt stick around a while longer. Which means more people are going to be newly diagnosed with it. It's a devastating diagnosis to receive and people who have just been given the label really need support in dealing with it. And what good would it be if all schizophrenics hid their diagnosis and were unable to support those struggling with their new label?

I can still remember the day schizophrenia was first used as a possible diagnosis. I was at a routine appointment with my GP (that's General Practitioner or Family Doctor for those overseas) for him to ask me a few questions then hand me my prescription. It was between hospital stays 1 and 2 so around early 2009. I can't even remember what we were talking about but my GP suddenly referred to my schizophrenia. I panicked and looked at the GP, then my dad (who'd taken me to the appointment). The GP looked shocked when he realised it wasn't my then-current diagnosis. He started backtracking, saying that I probably didn't have it, I didn't have the right types of hallucinations etc. Had I not been desperately trying to stop myself from crying, I probably would have just said that when you're in a hole, stop digging. But I couldn't. Then, during hospital stay 2, a lot of the nurses would use schizophrenia as my diagnosis despite it officially being psychosis. It really annoyed me when they threw schizophrenia around so flippantly. I wondered whether they realised the true, lifelong implications of the diagnosis. Yet, despite my annoyance, having had the name thrown at me casually so many times, I was sort of prepared for schizophrenia being made my official diagnosis. So in early 2010, when my psychiatrist said that I did indeed have a schizophrenic illness, I wasn't as shocked as most normally are.

Having been officially schizophrenic for nearly 3 years, I don't really think it's something I should shy away from anymore. If someone were to tell me either in person or over the Internet that they'd just been diagnosed with schizophrenia or something similar and they were upset by it, wouldn't I be able to encourage them a lot more by embracing the diagnosis (while it still lives) than shunning it altogether? OK, maybe schizophrenia is a diagnosis that should be renamed and reclassified but when a person is struggling with their new diagnosis, the right or wrong aspect of the name isn't important. What is important is that the person knows that there IS life to be had with schizophrenia. Once a person has been encouraged to keep fighting, then maybe discussion over the appropriateness of the name can start.

On saying all that, I still haven't been given a proper name for my illness yet! I just have "a schizophrenic illness". Whether it's Schizoaffective, Paranoid Schizophrenia or Schizo-WhateverSubDiagnosisTheDoctorWantsToAddOn, it doesn't matter. We all who have "schizo" or "psychosis/psychotic" in our diagnoses have one thing in common. We all have a screw loose somewhere in our brain which causes us to do things society thinks is weird. And maybe some things were weird! Smoking 30 cigarettes in a fortnight to prevent a plane from crashing is irrational and nonsensical. As a non-smoker it was a bit unpleasant too but at the time, I genuinely believed I had to do it! I could be alone in that delusion but from Twitter, I know that others have had similar delusions or hallucinations to others I experienced. And regardless of how weird our behaviour may be, there is always happiness to be had, a life to be lived. And that is the point I and all other schizo/psychotic-whatevers need to get across to those newly diagnosed with a similar illness.

So with all that in mind, should I change my @ name on Twitter? No. I won't. Why? Because it's a hassle changing the name. I just felt like boring you all with a long blog post!!

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