By Ashley Popoff
I still hallucinate when the sun goes down
My name is Ashley Popoff and my story starts when I was 10 years old and was attending 5th grade in public school. For some reason, I was having thoughts of suicide. At 10 years old, no child should be suicidal. It was terrifying for me and my parents. No one knew what was wrong, and some people thought that I was cutting myself just for “attention.” So I was left untreated and suicidal until I finally went to a doctor at age 14. This was during my first year of high school. In my home town, high school starts in the 9th grade and goes through the 12th grade.
I was starting to wonder what was wrong with me. So I went to see a doctor who thought that I was bipolar, so he started me on different types of medication. I went to the doctor every Friday for about 2 years. He was trying to get my meds straight and couldn't figure out why it wasn't helping. It made things worse for me, always being on some type of medication. My eyes got blurry; my hands would shake; I would go into catatonic states of not speaking or moving; and I got gallstones which had to be removed when I was 16. That same year while I was in 10th grade, I was being home schooled because of my symptoms of paranoia, depression, delusions and hallucinations. I was unable to go to public school because I missed so many classes due to my symptoms. I thought that every one hated me and that every one was out to get me. It was terrifying to walk down the hallways at school and all of the teachers thought I was a bad student because my grades were bad from missing so much school. I wish I could tell them now that I wasn't a bad student, that I just had an illness. I still can’t walk into a school-like building because it creates so much anxiety for me.
I was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, and put on antipsychotic medication to help with some of the symptoms. The way that my illness affected me was terrible; my doctor told me he believed it must be like living in a horror movie. I couldn't go outside because I was afraid all the people were watching me from outside their homes and were out to kill me. I couldn't walk past something that was a potential for people to hide behind: things like parked cars, bushes, trees, hallways, doors, fences; things like that terrified me. I couldn't ride in cars because I was afraid that we were always going to crash and I was doomed to die. I didn't like going into stores because I was afraid all of the security cameras were there to watch me and to make sure I couldn't get away, and that the other shoppers were following me. It affected my life to the point where I couldn't do things that I wanted to do and I did things that I wished I had never done.
Now I am 18 and cannot work because I still have fears of people. The fears aren't as bad as they were, but talking to strangers still makes me go into a panic mode, and I freak out. I tried working once but the time came that I had to talk to someone I didn’t know and I panicked. I couldn't speak, I couldn't move, my heart was racing and I was just shaking. I am unable to work because of my schizophrenia and I hope I can live on disability for the rest of my life. I had a dream once to be a baker and open up my own pastry shop, but my fear of people and schools keeps me from going to a college to train and keeps me from dealing with people if I were ever to open up my own bakery. I still hallucinate, and when the sun goes down and the house is quiet I see things that aren't there and they terrify me so badly that sometimes I can’t sleep. Sometimes I see aliens at the foot of my bed watching me or dead people staring in the windows at night. The things that I see are absolutely terrifying. I have never been violent and I hope that with this story I can create awareness about schizophrenia. Until about a week ago my best friend of 8 years found out that I have schizophrenia and she didn't even know what it was. Not a lot of people know what it is and I always wish that somehow I can create awareness, so people aren't afraid and so that people are more accepting of people with severe mental illness.