This week there was an article about a breakthrough in the knowledge about schizophrenia. The news is in many top magazines and websites, and I saw it over and over again on my newsfeed on Facebook and other social media accounts. If you follow any mental health journals or organizations, you probably saw it. Of course, the news is good. The breakthrough was genetic in origin. The findings are especially good news for the next generation of young people who may develop the disease. It is also possible for people like me to eventually benefit from a better family of medications or much later, a possible cure.
The fact that there was a breakthrough and that better treatment or cure is possible is fantastic news, but the reality is those things are still somewhere in the future. There was an unexpected benefit from this breakthrough that impacts my life today, though and I am thankful for that. This unexpected benefit is it that it helps educate people about schizophrenia, and that means less insulting comments and less ignorant responses that can leave those of us with the illness feeling isolated, and alone.
A few weeks ago, a fellow blogger told me that everyone with schizophrenia is demon possessed. I wrote a blog post pointing out the ignorance of this position, and I discovered that many other people with schizophrenia, or with a loved one with the disease, had heard the same type of thing. One woman even told me that her family had to stop attending their church because members of the organization kept saying things like, “You need to pray this away.”
When the blogger told me that people with schizophrenia are demon possessed, he also told me that science had convinced me that I have an illness (which he doesn’t believe is the case). Well, I happen to know I have an illness because medication helps with the symptoms and I don’t think that would be the case if my illness were a spiritual one. This new genetic finding regarding schizophrenia helps people understand that schizophrenia is a disease like cancer and diabetes, and it requires treatment.
I am not one to underestimate the power of prayer, but most people wouldn’t recommend giving up chemotherapy to rely exclusively on prayer, or to give up insulin in exchange for daily meditation.
People with schizophrenia have enough challenges throughout the day, we don’t need well-meaning, but ignorant people to tell us we aren’t trying hard enough, or that prayer will heal us if we just get right with God. That is not helpful, it is hurtful, and I’m so glad science took us one step closer to understanding the disease this week.
Maybe, those people who think we aren’t trying hard enough will get the message and try harder not to isolate us from communities of worship or make us feel like there is some flaw or character fault in us.
I am thankful for everyone who says a prayer for me, but I’m also thankful for years of researchers who developed the medications that help keep me from hearing voices or becoming psychotic. I respect religion, and I respect science, I don’t look at them as an either-or scenario.
Nightmare woman photo available from Shutterstock