Schizophrenia and Disclosure

The optometrist asked me what medications I was on. She wanted to know why I took the Geodon.

“Schizophrenia,” I blurted out without thinking. Then I clarified: “I’ve been in remission 23 years.”

The very professionals who are supposed to help us often stigmatize us when they hear our diagnosis.

A good friend went to a new primary care doctor for an intake. As soon as the MD heard my friend tell him that he had schizophrenia it was over. By the time R. got to the receptionist the doctor had already phoned her to instruct the woman to tell R. that the doctor wouldn’t see him again.

It’s akin to MDs and other professionals refusing to treat the kids of gay and lesbian partners. This has actually happened. Professionals routinely deny medical and other treatment to individuals who are judged to be “different.”

Even MDs think people with schizophrenia are “crazy.”

I can’t tell you why I told the optometrist I have schizophrenia.

Yet mostly I’m not stigmatized and this is unusual for a person with this kind of diagnosis.

It’s not a mystery to me why I’m not stigmatized: most people are more open-minded than they’re given credit for.

You find the tribe you belong to and it’s easier to be accorded dignity and respect. All others stigmatize us at their own risk.

I’m a powerhouse at the gym, and I wouldn’t want to have to take someone out if I were tested. I’m also Italian, and a lot of people have told me they won’t mess with me because they think I must be “connected.”

I kid you not: people won’t mess with me not because I have schizophrenia only because I’m Italian.

Go figure.

Now: I don’t relish spending the big bucks on the eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Yet I’ll take a great optometrist any day over a clueless MD.

Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and athlete.

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