by Sarah Fader

Dear Stigma Fighters Community,

I do not have schizophrenia. My best friend and business partner does. We are here to support you, whatever your mental illness is or if you have a loved one with mental illness. Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing your stories. And during schizophrenia week remember that it is possible to live a beautiful life when you have schizophrenia.

Thank you as always,

Sarah Fader
CEO & Founder of the Stigma Fighters non-profit organization

My Friends are Schizophrenic and I Love Them
By Sarah Fader

When I was with my ex, we once got into a huge fight. He tried to kick me out of my own home. He screamed, “Get the fuck out, you’re a paranoid schizophrenic.” I was hurt, but not about him yelling at me that I had a mental illness. I don’t have paranoid schizophrenia, but my best friend does.

I didn’t know Allie at the time. I wouldn’t meet her until a year later. Allie and I were introduced by a mutual friend in the writing world. In typical Jewish mother fashion, I asked her to write an essay for Stigma Fighters and when it had been two days and I hadn’t heard from her, I followed up by messaging her something along the lines of “are you going to write for Stigma Fighters or what?” After I bugged her to write an essay for Stigma Fighters, we started talking and realized that we had a lot in common. We have a joke that my anxiety loves her paranoia. Together, we took Stigma Fighters from a blog series to a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Allie is a bestselling author, a corporate professional who has worked in Customer Service for the past decade and recently switched to the position of Communications. She is (in many ways) way more functional than me. And I’m not being self-deprecating. She’s extremely organized, I would say type A+. She takes my ideas and helps me transform them in reality. Oh, did I mention? Allie lives with paranoid schizophrenia.

Several times during our relationship I reflected back to my ex yelling at me that I had paranoid schizophrenia, thinking that he was insulting me. And now, I have a best friend who has this severe illness. She blows my mind with all of her accomplishments. She grapples with visual and auditory hallucinations, yet she still manages to take her meds, go to work every day, and kick ass. If my ex was trying to insult me, he wasn’t doing a good job.

My friend Michelle Hammer also lives with paranoid schizophrenia. She’s a New Yorker (like me), has a successful clothing line, and is an amazing graphic designer. Her company is called Schizophrenic NYC. She’s also one of the graphic designers for my publishing company. She’s an incredibly talented artist, and I’m proud to call her my friend. Once again, if this is what paranoid schizophrenia looks like, then call me a schizophrenic.

Kevin Nordstrom is a good friend of mine who Allie introduced me to, and is also an artist. He’s whimsical, and lovely. He’s designed many book covers for me, and been a great friend to me when I needed a shoulder to cry on. He and his wife Laura are two of the most incredible people I have ever met.

Rebecca Chamaa is a professional writer and author of A Guided Mental Illness Journal and Workbook. I helped her publish this self-help book with my publishing company. She has paranoid schizophrenia. She’s a great friend of mine who has consistently sent Allie and I leads on writing gigs. She’s consistently opened her heart and home to Allie and I.

Lamont Derrickson is a modest humble man living with paranoid schizophrenia. He always asks how I am doing. I encouraged him to start a blog. I asked him to describe his personality. He said “I’m pretty laid back.” I said “okay how about The Laid Back Schizophrenic?”  A blog was born, and eventually we published his book by the same title. Michelle Hammer designed his cover.

My friends are schizophrenic and I love them. Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness. However, you can (as evidenced by my beautiful friends) live a full enriching life. Calling someone a “schizo” or “psycho” is wrong. People with schizophrenia have psychosis and it can be debilitating. Do you have a friend who has schizophrenia? If so, take a moment and share this essay with them.

Sarah Fader is the CEO of Stigma Fighters and Eliezer Tristan Publishing. She has been featured in The Huffington Post and The Washington Post. She lives in Portland with her two children and three cats.

Visit Sarah here.