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Living with Schizophrenia 

A UAlbany alum has written a book about how he copes with schizophrenia. 

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 25, 2019) – A School of Social Welfare alum living with schizophrenia helps others dealing with the same disease.

The author of On Conquering Schizophrenia, Robert Francis is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with more than 10 years’ experience as a mental health therapist. However, it is his own 25-year-long battle with schizophrenia that makes this book different.

Schizophrenia is a significant disease characterized by thought disorder. Common symptoms include auditory hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.

“I have learned to overcome a mostly harrowing disease. It is my hope that my experience with schizophrenia can be the trial to the victory of others,” said the author, who asked to be referred to by his pen name, Robert Francis, to keep his medical history private.

As an undergrad, Francis planned for a career behind the camera in broadcasting. He worked at local TV stations for a short time, and did some TV commercials.

His symptoms began in his 20s, and eventually triggered him to engage in “tremendously erratic, irrational and bizarre behavior.”

His family noticed the drastic change in his behavior and took him to a hospital six months later. He had repeated psychiatric hospitalizations. Francis considers himself lucky in that his family supported him through the intense beginning stage of the disease. Different treatments worked at different times, including medication and therapy. Other people with schizophrenia do not have the same support.

“When I see the homeless person in 10 layers of ragged clothing, unkempt, perhaps panhandling for money and talking and mumbling to themselves, I often think of the quote, ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’ ” Francis writes. He notes that untreated mental illness and lack of social support often lead to poor outcomes.

What is it like to try to go about one’s daily life while having a psychotic break with reality? He describes a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as the signal that he’s about to plunge down the roller coaster of a schizophrenic episode.

Now, even when highly symptomatic, “I have learned to monitor my behavior, language and conversations and I make damn well sure that I am remaining as rational as is humanly possible,” he writes.

For such a serious subject, the author displays a sense of humor that allows him to navigate otherwise torturous symptoms.

For example, years of dealing with this disease have taught the author that when he has the delusion of a microchip having been planted in his brain, “I retort to myself that even if it is true, ‘I really don’t care anymore.’ ”

He continues, “Delusions are not funny per se, as in an enjoyable manner of speaking, but I guess I have adopted a sense of humor as a means of coping.”

On the subject of persecutory delusions, he writes, “I used to ruminate, now I try to quickly discard. I say to myself, I may be in a form of hell, but I can still watch the Red Sox, take to the basketball court and enjoy a short stack of blueberry pancakes.”

The book is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

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