Overcoming Schizophrenia: Carson

Carson was born in 2000 in Tempe, Arizona, and has four siblings. As a child, he was particularly interested in math and science. His mother, a chemical engineer, inspired him.

In high school, Carson enjoyed an active social life and excelled in track and football. As a junior, he traveled with his classmates to the state track championships. In his senior year, he was student body president, presiding over 1800 students.

Carson’s first signs of a brain disorder began during his junior year of high school. He felt unable to focus. At that time, he dropped out of the track team, which had been his favorite sport. As a senior, he took a math class in differential equations for dual high school/college credit. He did well in this course and in other difficult classes. However, beginning at age 17, Carson started to smoke marijuana heavily, and became addicted. His psychiatric symptoms presented at the same time.

The day after he smoked, he would begin to suffer from paranoia. He felt he could not “turn off his brain.” While smoking marijuana, he experienced euphoria, but also paranoia. The next day, though the euphoria was absent, the paranoia remained.

Carson remembers watching a teacher’s hand twitch and wondering if that meant she was angry at him. In addition to the paranoia, he began to experience visual hallucinations. He noticed motion in his peripheral vision. He describes himself during that time as a “wreck.” However, he kept his symptoms a secret.

As he was finishing high school, Carson scored high on his SATs and was awarded an academic scholarship to study biomedical engineering at Arizona State University.

In 2018, living in the dorm, life became more complicated. His roommate was a drug dealer. Because Carson regularly stayed up all night, getting high then acting erratically, he was kicked out of the dorm. He withdrew from all his classes. That semester, his parents petitioned the court to have him taken to a psychiatry ward. In October of 2018, Carson was picked up by police and taken to a holding facility.

Carson was hospitalized for a month. During the duration of his stay at the hospital, he missed getting high. The first court-ordered medications prescribed caused him to develop involuntary movements including abnormal muscle contractions in his shoulders. Unfortunately, the hospital staff thought he was faking these symptoms. He yelled at the nurses, demanding to be released.

After his release from the hospital, he consented to taking oral medication for schizophrenia, and voluntarily went to doctor’s appointments every two weeks, but resumed getting high on marijuana regularly.

Finally, in April of 2019, Carson’s parents took him to a dual diagnosis rehabilitation facility in Prescott, Arizona. He was expected to stay ninety days, but would end up in the facility for a year.

Carson didn’t want to be treated, and felt his self esteem was crushed. He remembers going to support groups where he didn’t fit. He felt patronized. However, in rehab, he eventually made several new and healthy relationships.

It took a long time for Carson to stabilize. Eight months after his arrival at the rehab facility, he was prescribed clozapine. For the first time in years, his mind began to clear. His visual hallucinations disappeared, and paranoia lessened. Most of the side effects he experienced on other medications disappeared. Carson began to feel healthy, as he used to feel in high school, before the onset of his symptoms.

While at the rehabilitation facility, Carson began to take online college classes. He started with an English class and moved on to advanced math classes. He also changed his major to math. After completing three courses, Carson left the facility to start a new life, returned to his parent’s home, and enrolled again at the university. He decided to add a second major, Computer Systems Engineering.

In fall of 2021, Carson scored an A+ in each of his four classes, including courses in high level mathematics. He also recently began tutoring, which he hopes to continue in addition to his full time studies.

Today, Carson enjoys a loving relationship with his parents and family again. Symptom free, he thrives in full time college. In April 2022, he will mark three consecutive years of being clean. He has no desire to ever use drugs or drink alcohol again.

Carson is scheduled to complete his dual mathematics/computer science engineering bachelor’s degrees in spring of 2024.