Monday, 18 February 2013

The Person Behind the Schizophrenia

As most or all of my posts on this blog have been to do with schizophrenia or mental health in general, I've decided to write a post that has nothing to do with schizophrenia. It's a post about me. It's nothing that can reveal who I am, just random facts and stupid things I have done in the past! Just to show that I am a person and not an illness!

1. Never call me Kate or spell my name K-A-T-I-E. It's Katy!! While I don't mind being called K, Kit, Kitty, Kat, Kitty Kat, Freakshow or even Katriniana Bandayaga Ding Dong (I have my sister to thank for most of these!) having my name spelt wrong or being called Kate has always been a pet hate. Don't get me wrong, Kate and Katie are lovely names but I just don't like them on me.

2. Despite having lived in Wales for all but one year of my life, I was actually born in England. That, coupled with my inability to speak Welsh fluently, is a constant source of shame and so, I rarely attempt to speak Welsh in public. The most I really say is "Mae'n ddrwg gen i, dw i ddim yn siarad Cymraeg." That (hopefully) translates to "I'm sorry, I don't speak Welsh." It's enough for Welsh speakers to realise my ignorance and sometimes enough not to endure ridicule! I try and say that I'm making an effort but really, I know that I should be *ashamed* of my inability to speak Welsh! Don't worry though, it's not an issue that causes me to lose sleep! Also, my name is definitely not Welsh. There is no letter K along with a few other English letters in the Welsh alphabet. Yet the Welsh alphabet has 28 letters (or 29 if you include J)!

3. I am an embarrassingly fussy eater and always have been. Going out for a meal in an unfamiliar area can be extremely stressful for both me and my family. When I was young, I would gag if I ate something I didn't like and after throwing up in school after eating a piece of onion, I became almost phobic of onions. I like the flavour of onions so cheese and onion crisps or onion powder is fine but if I see a piece of onion in a meal, I'll go straight off it. Every time I find food that looks nice but I've never had before, I have to check the ingredient list for 'Onion' or 'Onions'. Onion Powder is acceptable but never Onion or Onions. Normally whenever my family and I make dinner, we have to make a separate meal for me. One that's onion free and 'Katy-safe'. If someone can invent a cure for my hatred of onions and my other food fussiness, I'd be immensely grateful.

4. I have the weird ability to be able to move both joints in each of my fingers independently. Moving the top joint (like in the picture below) freaked people out, especially as the bone beside the lower joint in my finger seems to ripple when I do it. I also used to be able to wobble my thumbs in and out of their sockets when I was younger but I appear to have lost that 'ability'. My flexible thumbs came in handy when I played snooker or pool as I could rest the cue in the gap in my thumb. Yes, I know it's weird and no, I don't know how I figured out that I could do both of these things or even why I attempted it in the first place!

Picture taken from

5. In Infant School aged about five, I got my head trapped inside the cord of my sports bag. It was a drawstring (or pull string) bag and for some strange reason, I had decided to hang the bag around my neck. I then spun the bag around and around until the cord started digging into my neck. I tried to undo the cord but it got tighter and tighter. Eventually in a panic, I had to ask a teacher to help me and I had to stand at the front of the class with my sports bag around my neck while the teacher freed me. I had a long lecture about why I shouldn't hang a bag around my neck but I didn't really need telling not to do it again!

6. Shortly before my seventh birthday, I was a bridesmaid for the second time. About an hour before we had to leave for the church, I was told to go to the toilet before putting my dress on. I did as I was told and, being a good little girl, I washed my hands afterwards. However, unknown to us all, there was a fault with the boiler meaning that boiling water was pouring straight from the hot taps. I washed my hands with the hot tap and immediately started screaming in pain. Thankfully only my right hand was scalded and as I'm right handed, I was able to get out of school work for a while! After a mad dash to hospital, my hand was bandaged up and I made it to the wedding just as the bride was arriving. It took years before I would use a hot tap again and to this day, I still often favour the cold tap over the hot tap. However, these days it's because I've been so used to choosing the cold tap, not because I'm afraid of the hot tap!

7. Despite being very shy as a young child, I loved acting and always wanted a main part in school plays. However, because I spent most of my time in school living in my own little world, the teachers didn't trust me to learn my part. As a result, it wasn't until my final year of Junior School, aged 10, before I finally had a main-ish part in a school play. I got to play the Golden Hen in Jack and the Beanstalk. My winning the part was mainly due to being able to create a convincing clucking sound and in my main scene, the part where I 'laid an egg' I had to cluck a lot whilst pushing the 'golden egg' out from underneath my jumper. The golden egg was a papier mache balloon sprayed gold and by the time the plays were put on, the egg was already quite damaged from all the rehearsals. A combination of not wanting to break the 'egg' and also having a tight jumper on meant that it took a while before the egg fell out from my jumper. As a result, I had to cluck for about two minutes whilst desperately trying to get this egg out from my jumper and in doing so, I earned the nickname 'The Constipated Chicken'. I was still called this name on the odd occasion in my final year of high school, five years later!

8. Being given that part in a school play in Junior School was an even bigger surprise when my first school play there is taken into consideration. In my first year of Junior School, aged 7, I was one of the 'extras' so to speak. I think I was a clown but I didn't have a speaking part. At the end of the dress rehearsal, I asked my teacher if I could go to the toilet but she refused to let me. I asked a couple more times and was still refused so I did what I had to do. I wet myself. I got into so much trouble as the teachers believed I had done it to be rebellious. I hadn't though; if you stop a 7 year old who needs the loo desperately from going, you will always get the same result!

9. My strongest subject in school was Maths. In my first year of high school, aged 11, my maths teacher wanted to stretch my ability and gave me the GCSE textbooks to work from, textbooks used by students three and four years older than me! I found even this work easy and the teacher told me that I had the ability to sit my GCSE Maths a couple of years early. However, he retired at the end of my first year and none of the other teachers had his confidence in me. I was given second year textbooks in my second year, a demotion from the GCSE textbooks I had been using a year earlier!

10. I was also brilliant at spelling and earned another nickname 'The Human Spellchecker' which was a much nicer name! However, despite my spelling ability, I actually have dyslexia, albeit a much different form than 'normal' dyslexia. When I was assessed at university, my spelling ability was given the highest grade but it was my reading ability that caused concern. I've no idea why I do this but whenever I see writing, my mind starts grouping the letters into groups of nine. Instead of taking in words, my mind reads numbers. The worst example of this was when I was aged 16. Over two days in work, I spent a day and a half, the equivalent of 12 hours, reading a five-line paragraph and still couldn't understand the words! I can read if I concentrate but as my concentration is pretty poor at the moment, reading is a struggle that I try and avoid.

11. My worst subject at school was Geography. I was absolutely terrible at it. For one, I truly believed that the capital of Sweden was Stockport and embarrassingly, it wasn't until my mid teens before I realised my mistake! In my second year of high school, I tried to work especially hard in one geography lesson and flew through the work that was on the board that day. I proudly raised my hand to tell the teacher that I had finished and she asked how I had managed to complete the second part of the work when that part required a different textbook. She asked me what work I had done and I showed her. I had completed two pages worth of questions about earthquakes when we were supposed to be learning about volcanos. I hadn't noticed! She kept me in on a break time detention which scared me. She was a very strict teacher who I was afraid of. Five minutes into the break, she started trying to tell me off for not listening properly when she burst out laughing. She told me she couldn't believe that I could do so much work about earthquakes instead of volcanos and a couple of times, she had to wipe tears from her eyes. When she finally stopped laughing, she told me to listen in class more and then with stern laughter, told me not to tell anyone that she had a sense of humour. She reminded me that she had a reputation of being a dragon to maintain and she didn't want me damaging that reputation. I learned that day and in the years to come that she had a wicked sense of humour. However, she reserved it for the pupils she liked!

12. I started learning to play the piano aged five and also learned the violin and flute in school. I stopped playing the violin just after starting high school but kept up the flute until leaving high school. I was in the school orchestra from my second year of high school onwards which, despite meaning I had to give up one lunch time a week for rehearsals, I was able to sit on a proper chair during our school assembly. Those not in the choir or orchestra had to squash into our school's sports hall and sit on the floor. I did the musical piece twice in this time, firstly on the flute, then on the piano. I was so nervous when I did the flute piece that my knees were visibly shaking. The piano was much easier as I could sit down to play it! My school had roughly 1,200 pupils so I can honestly say that I've performed music to a crowd of over 1,000 people. Even though the vast majority of them were bored and uninterested in my performance!

13. I've always loved video games but hesitate to call myself a 'gamer'. I don't like the war games or MMORPGs and instead prefer games like The Legend of Zelda and Mario Kart. I don't like most of the handheld Zelda games but loved the two on the N64. I traded many of my old games in to get a Nintendo 3DS mainly so that I could play The Ocarina of Time on a handheld console! I have also played 6 of the 7 Mario Karts, the only one I've not played is the SNES version. My favourite Mario Kart has got to be the Wii version and I am annoyingly good at it, or so my family say!

14. I learned how to sail a dinghy when I was 10 and then learned how to windsurf aged 12. In my opinion, dinghy sailing is easier than windsurfing and I also found it more enjoyable. I don't sail or windsurf anymore and I don't think I could even remember how to windsurf! I would probably remember how to sail though. Aged 18, I was sailing a dinghy (a Laser Pico) on the sea in Greece, a day after an octopus had been seen in the sea. I felt confident in my sailing ability though and decided to go out anyway. My confidence was misplaced and I capsized three times. Each time, I was convinced that the octopus was nearby and I have never managed to right a dinghy and climb back aboard so quickly in my life! I was so terrified that this 'jellified spider' was going to catch me that after the third capsize, I signalled for help and asked the rescue boat to tow me back in. I don't think I ventured into the sea again on that holiday!

15. The only piercing I have ever had was getting my ears pierced at 16. However, I chose the worst time to have them pierced as I was going on a camping holiday a few days later. Despite doing my best to keep the piercing clean and rotating both parts of the studs every day for as long as was recommended, the piercing still became septic. I had to let the piercings close over and never got another piercing. I wanted to get my eyebrow pierced when I was at university but my job wouldn't allow a visible piercing. On a similar topic, I don't have any tattoos. I've been tempted to get one in the past but to be honest, I doubt I'll ever get one, or another piercing for that matter.

16. I've also never dyed my hair. I had very blonde hair when I was younger but now it's darker. I'm still blonde though and I am prone to having 'blonde moments'. I would love to dye my hair a browny red colour but with my natural hair colour, I doubt that I could achieve the shade I would love. On the subject of hair, it's very long at the moment and I'll soon be chopping most of it off to donate to the Little Princess Trust. They're a charity that provide real hair wigs to children suffering from cancer and other illnesses that cause hair loss, such as alopecia. I think being able to provide part of a wig for a child is a better feeling than being able to dye my hair but that's just my personal opinion!

17. I passed my driving test on my first attempt despite failing a mock test four days previously. The mock test had been done by a recently qualified instructor who, according to my regular instructor, was too quick to point out every little fault, including not holding the steering wheel at exactly 'ten and two' (he gave me a 'minor' fault for that) and not moving the rear-view mirror (it was already in the right position but he still gave me another 'minor' fault!). I also had a 'serious' fault (a fault that instantly fails you) as he had to use his brakes. I had been edging out of a lay-by and as I had seen a car coming, I immediately applied the brakes. However, this instructor beat me to the brakes and instantly failed me because of it. At the end of the test, he arrogantly told my instructor that I needed several more lessons and how I wasn't ready for my test in four days. I proved him wrong by passing my test with only three 'minors'! (14 minors are allowed before a person is failed). I asked my instructor if she'd tell the guy who had given me such a negative report four days previously about my pass and with an evil smile, she told me she would love to. I have a strong feeling that she wasn't keen on the young whippersnapper!

18. I was born with a large mole on the back of my neck and when it started turning black at 16, I visited the doctor about it. He said it looked benign but I could have it removed if I wanted. I leapt at the chance to get rid of it as I had painfully caught the mole with hairbrushes numerous times. A few months after visiting the doctor, I had the mole removed under local anaesthetic. I was 17 at the time and had to take a day off work but didn't mind as it meant getting rid of that mole forever. After the stitches were taken out, I was left with an impressive looking wound on my neck. One afternoon in work, I was asked by a visitor what had happened to my neck. In a moment of madness, I told her that I had been stabbed. The poor woman looked horrified and asked me where it had happened. I laughed and gave her the name of the hospital and told her that it had been a birthmark that I'd had removed. She looked both relieved and disgusted at this revelation and thankfully I never saw that woman again. My karma soon came around though as when my neck healed, it left a highly visible scar that looked very much like a hickey! The hickey-like mark stayed for about 18 months until it finally faded to the pale pink scar it is today. I am pleased that I had the mole removed but I still feel guilty for telling that woman I'd been stabbed!

19. In my last job a few years ago, I forgot my name badge one day in work and so, I had to wear a spare badge. The store always had a spare badge to wear but the name on that badge was 'Gertrude'. I think it was an incentive to make sure we remembered our badges and on that day, I was told I had to wear the Gertrude badge. Thankfully, my boss had a spare badge that he could lend me but he had a blatantly male name. I still preferred it over Gertrude and chose to wear that badge. However, I then had to be the greeter at the front of the store and I had several people giving both me and my badge a funny look. A couple of children asked me if I was a man or a woman to the embarrassment of their parents. It didn't actually bother me that much. Most people could work out that I was a woman with a man's badge and I preferred that over people thinking my name really was Gertrude!

20. I've donated blood twice and am on the Organ Donation Register. I would continue to donate blood but can't because of the meds I'm on. Both times I donated, I was 17 and was about to register on the Bone Marrow Transplant Register when I started taking Fluoxetine (Prozac). I would love to be able to donate blood again and join the Bone Marrow Transplant Register but my blood and bone marrow wouldn't be accepted at the moment. However, I can still be on the Organ Donation Register and have told my family that if the worst happens, they should donate as many parts as can be used. After all, they'll be of no use to me once I'm gone and there's no point leaving them to rot underground when they could be used to save a life!

So that is a part of me, behind my illness. I am still the person who did these things and still does some of these things! There is always a person behind a mental illness, and they stay the same person, no matter how long the person has had their illness. An illness can be a part of a person but it is never the whole of a person. Their personality made be hidden by their illness but it never goes away. And that goes for all mental illnesses, not just schizophrenia.

Hopefully revealing a part of me will prove that there is a person behind schizophrenia! I am Katy, not Schizophrenic Katy. And remember, it's K-A-T-Y not K-A-T-I-E!

1 comment:

  1. You are talented in writing!Keep up the good work!