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 know this isn’t the exact same but when she started talking about how long it took her to get treatment it hit me hard. i struggle with anxiety, depression, and trauma, and i was told a lot of the same things she was. i did get help though, and i’m in a much better place. it’s very important to not let the (now fading) stigma of mental health treatment stop us from being healthy and receiving help we need. god bless her for speaking up about one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses of all.

  2. I have schizophrenia, I had an episode at work. I'm going back tomorrow morning with fresh homemade bread to try and show people its ok

  3. Niacin, Niacin and Niacin. Look into the book Niacin the real story. It has changed so many lives struggling with schizophrenia. It has helped me tremendously.

  4. I cannot believe the assholes sent cops to her dorm just because she outed herself and decided she wanted to go to a hospital, then the cops treated her like a criminal. That is so wrong and unneccessary.

  5. Hey it’s the Cecilia from that interview with people who have disorders channel where a guy has really white teeth and acts sort of like a robot as he asks his guests questions.

  6. Diagnosed last year, I thought it was normal for everybody to hear voices, and to see things, so to think back to when it started kinda makes me sad. This was back in the 90's so the openness wasn't there, and maybe being 8 or 9 years old also had something to do with the doubtfulness from others.

    Schizophrenia isn't psychotic. Lol Even if/when our heads are filled with bad conversations, or we're being told to do horrible/violent things, we're still ourselves. We're still people. & 99% of us don't want to hurt anybody.. Mostly we just want to feel safe.

    I've lived with it for 20 years, and yes, I've attempted suicide a few times, luckily still here. It's a daily challenge that not a lot of people understand. I've lost plenty of jobs because of it. Lol but you'd be amazed at what you're capable of if you just keep on trying. Schizophrenic or not, we all have our own problems, but we're all still capable of great things.

  7. I can't even imagine the terror I'd feel if I had to experience even a little of what she and many others go through every day. What an impressive woman.

  8. I was just diagnosed with this a few weeks ago. I’m a junior in high school also. I have had ptsd for 2 years. I have dissociative disorder. Seeing things hearing things and feeling things that aren’t there.

  9. I was just diagnosed with this a few weeks ago. I’m a junior in high school also. I have had ptsd for 2 years. I have dissociative disorder. Seeing things hearing things and feeling things that aren’t there.

  10. Is this the same woman who was interviewed on SBSK?

    Edit: Oh yes she is. An incredible TEDTalk and her SBSK interview is equally incredible.

  11. People probably think my lack of disgust around dead animals and unprocessed corpses is weird it is not though every where you look there is death…people don't want to see it though you can tell that by animal and people cremation and processing…people would rather see skeletons or bones then rot…or smell it…

  12. hey, look at the bright side. Now, no scary movie can actually scare you
    but, I think you should start finding intimacy with God. the peace that it'd give you , would break away all of your fears.

  13. Wow. I am so proud of you and inspired by you. I loved all your work. This was truly amazing. The schizophrenia I have only been learning bout through text and see from afar was finally explained so correctly. I just don't even have words to express.

  14. Both my Mum & Dad had siblings who suffered with schizophrenia, they're dead now, sadly they lived in a time when people just didn't talk about mental illness. I'm so glad that people like Cecilia now have a voice.

  15. I have BPD with hallucinatons at times. Lately I have been experiencing auditory hallucinations at night, at times. This may be triggered by my PTSD or Anxiety. It's rough. And VERY scary, very. I commend her for being so open, brave, honest, and such a fighter. I can't even imagine. We only know our own stories

  16. I can relate to you Cecilia. Developed schizophrenia while at Penn state university in 2010. I face lot of delusions more of paranoid schizophrenia. Still use meds which make me gain weight. Experience sinusoidal cycles. Sometimes I am highly motivated sometimes lack any motivation – just insipid.

  17. Maybe she is a psychic ?!!But believed other wise ..maybe she opened the third eye unintentionally but because what other made her believe ..she gave up on her gift …
    This is in the alternative world

  18. When she said "but you'll never know that I'm hallucinating, The clown is actually in the audience today and you would never know." My imaginations strikes immediately she was at that stage and the clown was at the back in the corner area looking dangerously at her from afar. And it could even be worse for me to imagine if she told the people there that it's the girl from the ring instead of the clown.

  19. She is so strong and gorgeous….
    Iam begining to think that i would have proposed to her…
    Her spirit is so powerfull and admirable and i like that.. seriously

  20. She was fascinating in her SBSK video, but this demonstrates her passion, her genius, and her sense of humor. Big fan of her bravery and openness.

  21. people shouldn't be so honest with others about what they hear–its annoying to feel like a liar, I know, but its important to IGNORE that heroic calling and just survive.

  22. If you have schizophrenia I would advise you to be very careful because they are is a storm on the rise. Be very careful because mental illness is being used against the people.

  23. you are a legend cecelia. I think you are great. Keep up your passion with astronomy. Find my uncles home planet if you could. He says its somewhere near epsilon bootes.

  24. I have a squizophrenic colleague who has been moved from office to office always after getting involved in disturbs because he feels persecuted. The chiefs seem don't know what to do, maybe waiting for an incapacity retirement if his medical licenses achieve a legal limit.

  25. I take people stories as my own because of self stigma. It's almost as taking their burdens as your own. I have auditory hallucinations and they mocked everything I do. It's hard to shut down and I try not to always spill my emotions on other people. This though was a great learning lesson for the mentally ill and the neurotypical people.

  26. Откуда она знает эти персонажи? И если ответ в том, Что она смотрела все эти ужастики, То задам другой вопрос, а зачем при таком диагнозе хрень всякую смотреть?

  27. Wow amazing story…. couldn't help feel bad for her mother though, I suspect judging from this they didn't have a very good relationship at this point in time

  28. I work with psych patients at the hospital all the time and sometimes the employees are just not sensitive to their diagnoses. This helps me remain empathetic.

  29. tell me something there dangerous when they cant tell when there hallucinating right or when they give into there hallucinations out of exhaustion ik someone who tried to poison there mom. why is this the case!

  30. If you have schizophrenia and you decide "I'm gonna go to college" I already have a respect for those people, it's hard enough getting through college with mental or physical issues. Even harder getting through college with some sort of anxiety or something along those lines. But to have a clown sit in front of you while taking a test I cant imagine that. And theres other people in college with more minor or more severe symptoms and hallucinations. Instead of being so afraid of people with schizophrenia how about helping them. Or even talking to them

  31. 11:10 It's not. If it weren't, people wouldn't be trying to find a way to fix it. It's one thing to say it doesn't make a person worthless, etc, but this is a dangerous game progressives are playing, pretending mental illness is perfectly fine as opposed to something one should work to cure.

  32. My uncle's 'wifey' has schizophrenia and she ended up trying to shoot kids that were playing on the street because they were 'making stories' behind her back. Along with the neighbors and our relatives.

    She holed herself up inside the old house with her son, while she barricaded the door and he reloaded the gun.

    When she ran out of bullets, SWAT arrested her before she could burn down the house. She already soaked curtains and placed them in bins.

    She hears voices constantly mocking her and she blames it on the people around her.

  33. I am curious about when Cecilia mentions that a person can have Schizophrenia and not have delusions/not hallucinate. The diagnostic criteria for Schizophrenia in the DSM5 mentions that at least one of the sub-criteria for criterion A must be 1, 2, or 3 – in reference to: 1-delusions, 2-hallucinations, 3-disorganized speech, 4-grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, and 5-negative symptoms.

    Obviously this is just my 2 cents because irrespective of the DSM and the other stuff like the ICD, people have their own experiences with mental illness. What do people think about this?

  34. Cecilia I love listening to you. I have suffered from depression in the past and for me that was scary. I'm pleased that you have the confidence and strength to speak out about scitzophrenia. Take care and ignore those vile people. X

  35. There definitely isn't enough mental help anywhere in the world. Mental illness is only dangerous when it's not managed properly, and by that I mean, having a family that tells you to seek help and supports you, asks questions to actually help you. I would be willing to bet that every single person that committed a crime because of a psychotic break had almost no to absolutely no supportive family.

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