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People may wonder if there are any warning signs of a future mental illness, and I think in many cases there are.

My first psychotic episode happened when I was around twenty eight years old, but as I think back on my life, I was showing signs and symptoms of schizophrenia at an early age.

I was a very sensitive child. I didn’t need to be disciplined in any way. If my parents corrected me, that was enough to make me cry. I remember coming home from grade school one day and asking my dad what the word, fuck meant. When he told me it was a naughty word, and to never say it, I ended up in my room crying. I don’t think he scolded me or anything. As I remember it, he just said not to say it.

Being a sensitive child meant that my feelings got hurt very easily and they stayed hurt for a long time.

There was also trauma in my childhood. Our home was frequently filled with fighting and violence. My dad was an alcoholic with insecurities, trust issues, and a temper.  I don’t blame my parents for my diagnosis.  There are some studies that tie early trauma to developing a full blown mental illness later in life, but there are plenty of people who never experienced trauma who develop a severe mental illness, so it is okay with me if we throw all this information out.  It’s unreliable.

I ran away from home the first time when I was in fourth grade. I stayed overnight at a friend’s house who lived on a farm, and we packed up food and supplies and at nightfall headed across the field.  Her brother and dogs found us. Her dad spanked her in her bedroom while I was standing in their living room waiting for my parents to pick me up. My parents just asked me why I ran away. I didn’t have an answer.

In junior high I had a friend, Sherrye, who was two grades ahead of me. Her friends used to tease her and say, “Your little friend, Becka, is so weird she is always humming to herself at her locker.”  It was true I had a habit of comforting myself by humming. I did it without noticing. Whenever I was uncomfortable, or if someone was mad at me, I would hum.

Things got way worse when I was a teenager. I started experimenting with drugs. I smoked pot regularly with two of my brothers, drank to excess and even tried harder drugs on a couple of occasions.  I ended up running away with an ex-con who was in his twenties.

As a teen, I was moody, difficult, lost, and making bad decisions constantly. I ran with rough crowds.  I had a very difficult time being involved in anything that would have helped me develop a healthy relationship or self-esteem.

I dropped out of high school, but eventually went back to finish.  The same was true of college, I dropped out of college but later returned to finish.

These are just a few examples of problems that manifested themselves before my first episode. I think I had emotional problems all of my life and when I experienced so much stress, loss and trauma in my late twenties, it was the switch that flipped on my psychosis, and once the switch is flipped you can treat it, but never turn it off again.