I Am Not A Monster: Schizophrenia | Cecilia McGough | TEDxPSU

Translator: Sara Palacios
Reviewer: Theresa Ranft Hello, my name is Cecilia McGough. I’m an astronomy and astrophysics major
here at Penn State, and the founder and president of the Penn State
Pulsar Search Collaboratory. In high school, I was lucky enough
to have co-discovered a pulsar through the Pulsar Search Collaboratory. A pulsar is a super dense neutron star that emits dipole
electromagnetic radiation. Basically, think of a star
much, much larger than our sun, blowing away its outer layers,
leaving behind a dense core – that core could be our pulsar. This discovery opened some doors for me, such as helping represent
the United States in the International
Space Olympics in Russia. And also, being a Virginia aerospace
science and technology scholar. I know what you must be thinking: “What a nerd!” “Nerd alert!” Well, for the longest time,
this nerd had a secret. A secret that I was too scared
and too embarrassed to tell anyone. That secret is that I have schizophrenia. But what is schizophrenia? It’s important to think of schizophrenia
as an umbrella-like diagnosis. NAMI shows these different symptoms
as a way you could diagnose schizophrenia, such as delusions and hallucinations
being the hallmark characteristics. But it is very important to know
that a person could have schizophrenia and not have delusions
and not hallucinate. Each person’s story with schizophrenia
is unique to their own. Today I’m going to be talking
about my story with schizophrenia. It has been thought
that I’ve had schizophrenia all my life. But it became very prevalent
in my junior year of high school, and then it just snowballed into college. February of 2014,
my freshman year of college, my life changed when I tried to take my own life
through suicide. “Why?” you ask. Because my life had become
a waking nightmare. The following images have been edited
using Microsoft’s artistic effects because they are just
too triggering for me. At this time, I had started hallucinating. I started seeing, hearing and feeling
things that weren’t there. Everywhere that I went,
I was followed around by a clown that looked very similar
to the Stephen King’s adaptation of “It”. Everywhere that I went, he would be giggling,
taunting me, poking me, and sometimes even biting me. I would also hallucinate spiders, sometimes little spiders. And these are actually
the most obtrusive sometimes because we see
little spiders in real life. So, sometimes this is the only time
I ever have difficulty discerning whether it is
a hallucination or real life. I’m very good at knowing
when I’m hallucinating and I know that it is
a chemical imbalance inside my head. I don’t even give
these hallucinations names. I also hallucinate giant spiders though. One spider, in particular, comes to mind. It was rather large, leathery skin,
black legs and yellow body. No voice ever came out of its mouth.
However, when it moved its legs, the creaking of the legs sounded like
young children laughing. It was very disturbing. But it started becoming unbearable
when I started hallucinating this girl. She looked sort of like
in the movie “The Ring”. The thing with her was she was able
to continue conversations with herself, and would know exactly
what to say and when to say it to chip away at my insecurities. But the worst was, she would also
carry a knife around with her and she would stab me,
sometimes in the face. This made taking tests, quizzes,
and doing homework in general extremely difficult to impossible
when I was in college. Sometimes I wouldn’t even be able
to see the paper in front of my face because I was hallucinating too much. I don’t usually speak so openly
about my hallucinations, because people usually look at me in fear
after I tell them what I see. But the thing is, I’m not much different
than the rest of you. We all see, hear, and feel things
when we are dreaming. I’m just someone who cannot turn off
my nightmares, even when I’m awake. I’ve been hallucinating now obtrusively
for about over four years. So, I have gotten very good at just pretending
I’m not seeing what I’m seeing, or ignoring them. But I have triggers, such as seeing
the color red is very triggering for me. I don’t know if you guys
noticed this or not, but they changed the carpet that I’m on. They changed it
to a black carpet instead of red. I sort of laugh at my life a bit
like a dark comedy, because, of course, the only color combination
that I have issues with is red and white. What are TED’s colors? (Laughter) Really people! But, I have issues with those colors because those are the colors
that the clown has: red hair and white skin. And how I’m able to ignore him
is I just don’t look at him, but I’m able to know where that hallucination is
in my peripheral vision, because of the bright colors
of red and white. But you would never know
that I’m hallucinating. The clown is actually
in the audience today and you would never know. On a lighter note,
who is looking forward to the Oscars? Hands up! I knew you guys would be interested! Well, if there were nominations for people
just acting “normal” in everyday life, people who have schizophrenia
would definitely be nominated as well. When I first became open
about having schizophrenia, it was a shock to even
the people closest to me. It took me eight months, eight months after my suicide attempt to finally get the treatment
that I needed. I didn’t even have
the diagnosis of schizophrenia. And because of that, what kept me from getting help
were conversations like these. I remember very distinctively
within that time on the phone with my mother. I would tell my mum, “Mom I’m sick, I’m seeing things that aren’t there, I need medicine,
I need to talk to a doctor.” Her response? “No, no, no, no. You can’t tell anyone about this. This can’t be on our medical history. Think of your sisters,
think of your sisters’ futures. People are going to think
that you’re crazy, they are going to think you’re dangerous
and you won’t be able to get a job.” What I say to that now is “Don’t let anyone convince you
not to get medical help. It’s not worth it! It is your choice
and it is also your right.” Getting medical help was the best decision
that I have ever made. And I am confident
that I would not be here today if I didn’t get the proper medical help. This led into my first hospitalization. I had been in the psych ward four times
within the past two years. But I still was not open
about having schizophrenia until my second hospitalization,
because the police were involved. One evening I realized I needed
to check myself back into hospital, because I needed some changes
in my medication. So I admitted myself
into the emergency room. I talked to the doctors, they said, “OK, let’s fix the meds,
you can stay here overnight.” It was all good. After the brief one-night hospital stay, I came back to my dorm room
here at Penn State, and to very concerned roommates, which I understand
why they were concerned – if I was in their shoes,
I would have been concerned as well – but also the RA and a CANHELP person. We all talked and we decided
that I needed another psych ward stay. And I was OK on going,
I wasn’t at all refusing, I was willing to go. But what happened next was inexcusable. They brought police officers
into my dorm room, in front of my roommates,
they padded me down and I had to convince them
not to put handcuffs on me. They then brought me,
escorted me into a police car that was parked on the road next to one of our dining
commons: Redifer, where friends were passing by
and seeing me put into a police car. By that time, when I came back,
the cat was out of the bag. People knew something was up,
so I had to set the story straight. I opened up about my schizophrenia through a blog, but I posted
all my blog posts on Facebook. And I was amazed by how much support
there was out there. And I also realized that there are so many
other people just like me. I was actually amazed! A few of my friends opened up to me
that they had schizophrenia. Now I am dedicated to being
a mental health advocate. I’m not going to wallow
in self-pity about my diagnosis. Instead, I want to use it
as a common denominator, so I can help other people
who have schizophrenia. And I’m not going to rest until anyone
who has schizophrenia worldwide is not afraid to say the words: “I have schizophrenia.” Because it’s OK to have schizophrenia, it really is. Because 1.1% of the world’s population
over the age of 18 has some sort of schizophrenia. That is 51 million people worldwide and 2.4 million people
in the United States alone. But there’s a problem. Because one out of ten people
who have schizophrenia take their own life through suicide. Another four out of ten
attempt suicide at least once. I fall into that statistic. You would think that there would
already be a nonprofit focused on empowering college students
who have schizophrenia, especially since the peak age to have
a schizophrenic break is early adulthood – the same age range
as a typical college student. But there isn’t. There is no nonprofit
in the entire United States focused on that. And a general nonprofit
focused on mental health in general is not enough. Because even in the mental
health community, schizophrenia is shied away from, because it makes people
feel “uncomfortable”. That is why I have decided to found the nonprofit
“Students With Schizophrenia”, where we will empower college students
and get them the resources that they need, so they can stay in college
and be successful. Because you could be successful
and also have schizophrenia. We need to change the face
of schizophrenia, because the representation
currently is inaccurate. Don’t let anyone tell you
that you can’t have a mental illness and also not be mentally strong. You are strong, you are brave,
you are a warrior. Unfortunately, this nonprofit
is too late for some. Since I’ve become open
about having schizophrenia I am asked to come
into different classrooms here at Penn State, and talk to the class about my experience
having schizophrenia. One class stands out in particular. Earlier in the semester
one of the students opened up to the class
that she had schizophrenia. I commend her for her bravery. However, by the time that I came
and talked to that class, she had taken her own life
through suicide. We were too late for her. I was too late for her. Here at Penn State, we have to make
an example to the world, because this is not just happening
here at Penn State, it’s happening globally. But here at Penn State, we have to show that we are here for our students, we are talking about mental health, and we are not afraid
to talk about schizophrenia. My name is Cecilia McGough, I have schizophrenia and I am not a monster. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheering)

About the author


  1. shes triggered by red and white

    ? but her website colours were red and white ?
    this isnt hate shes so strong 💙💙

  2. Honestly, i woul never think you are a bad person or something like that. I look at you and i feel you are very smart, gentle and grateful person. But is great that someone can speak about psquizofrenia like you do.👏👏👏👏

  3. Watching this women talk about her hallucinations, makes me think about my days with acid. To think I did that to my brain just to see hallucinations.

  4. I am Bipolar 1 and I have had police treat me absolutely horrible just because I wanted to admit myself. I feel for her.

  5. i’ve never seen such a high functioning schizophrenic in real life before….my aunt whom i live with currently has been sick with this illness since i was about 3 years old and has been this way pretty much my entire life and is no where near as functioning as this young woman and i don’t believe she ever will be. She got sick when she was 21 and has been this way ever since…. she does not shower, doesn’t change her clothes,has no front teeth because she constantly smokes and doesn’t brush her teeth, has ratty hair and is overweight now (she use to be vegan and super skinny) and now she mostly sleeps all day and has random near constant outbursts of screaming and crying. she also NEVER and i mean NEVER cleans up after herself. she has hallucinations of clones, the queen of england talking to her, anjolina jolie and brad pit talking to her, and a war happening on american soil. she has attempted to kill my family members several times in several forms….. this woman is high functioning and not every schizophrenic is this way

  6. I'm curious about how schizoprenia works. Since it's your own brain creating those hallucinations, there has to be a way to influence what are these hallucinations? How are they created exactly? Is it similar to how dreams are constructed?

  7. I have schizophrenia too and I remember when I first had breakdowns my body used to shake a lot and I would fight my family starting pelting things I even took meds but it made it worse I was in a mental institution three times for a few months From 2016-2018 and I couldn't function properly in the classroom it was very hard for me I even wanted to kill myself because the pain was so bad

  8. The problem is that many people stop taking the medication. It's PART of schizophrenia. Also, many get VERY violent.

  9. Hi, You don't seem like you are sick in anyway. You appear and sound very healthy I'd like to say. It seems as if you maybe blocking out your mother's verbal abuse so you might have to deal with just that until that's resolved. I wouldn't know if that's the "clown" you keep avoiding or something else. Thanks!

  10. I had a very intelligent friend, a young man, brilliant at chess, a gifted artist and a very kind soul. He had Schizophrenia. Cop shot him at point blank firing range in the head, out of fear that he could be a monster. Daniel Lopp was his name, and I miss him. God bless you. I am going to add that because he was white, it didn't make the news.

  11. I worked with Schizophrenics for 20 years. Sure they are unpredictable at times, but are the most gentle group i have ever worked with.

  12. So when she thinks of the word red why doesn’t that trigger it because whenever you think of just the word you naturally think of and see the colour in your head

  13. I have schizophrenia. I take lithium geodon and lamictal. I see faces angels and penises. Haha anyone who thinks anything bad about that might be in trouble somehow. ??? :/

  14. being diagnosed schizo-affective, I can say it wasn't easy at first. When I became ill I went in and out of the psych ward each month for a couple years, than every few months after. My paranoia is real, it affects my relationships and those around me. Medications help me cope along with therapy. I've been struggling for 20 years, and I'm still learning. I applaud this woman for what she is doing for others who are battling this. Also, turning to Jesus really helped me understand that I was never alone, a lot of the times I believe my triggers are down right demonic and I think it's just a spiritual battle for the soul- but I understand that if I take my own life- then the demons won. Medications, therapy and a staying grounded as a Christian is my formula towards a healthier life regardless of what my mind does on its own.

  15. I had a similar experience a year ago. had my first psychotic episode. smoked too much weed, stopped and lost my mind. Strangely enough I also felt this "being" in the form of a clown…. clown demon I called it at the time. And i found the reason my aunt committed suicide, since she did it whilst being in a psychosis……. that woman from the ring also fkn scared me every since i was a kid lmao… the simalarities are quite strange, couldnt really relate to the spiders though…. managed to survive the episode and now i keep on pushing on, on wards and upwards. much love.

  16. I have had some what I think is dreaming while I’m awake. It only happens around the time a need to wake up. The first time flows as this: I woke up and sat up in my bed, I turn around and look up to see a huge spider on my ceiling, I throw a pillow at it then leap out of my bed and slam into my desk.:that’s when I really woke up in the same place as my dream and that’s when I realized I was awake the whole time.

  17. New mental health vlogger here if anyone is interested 😁
    I have anxiety and depression trying to learn and understand more with others

  18. I can't imagine what she's going through. I'm really scared of anything paranormal, can't watch horror movies and when started talking about the clown I got really uncomfortable because that is something I'm scared of but when she started talking about the girl I had to skip after seeing the picture on the screen and just imagining how she would continue. And to imagine that she actually has to live seeing these hallucinations I couldn't honestly bear it, so much respect towards her or anyone like her surviving daily from this.

  19. This is a priceless account of a personal journey into what for many people is a devastating illness. The degree of insight into her experience and ability to articulate its depth is unique. Her bravery in her transparence and unapologetic advocacy is truly needed to alleviate the stigma. Thank you for sharing your story.

  20. God when she said the ring-like girl following her would chip away at her confidence and often stab her in the face…that is when it truly connected within me. I felt what she meant, I could see an imagine in my mind of her flinching and having to move on and act as if nothing was happening to her. i don't love calling people with disabilities doing ""normal"" things brave because i often feel its slightly demeaning but anyone that gets on a stage is brave let alone someone who might have difficulty articulating their emotions/words and might have their conversations invaded by unwanted brain guests. much love

  21. "Blowing away its outer layers and forming a much denser core."
    That pretty much describes the course of my life.

  22. It is ok. But then its used against mom and dads and take kids away. Esp when its bipolar or schizophrenia. BUT you can be under the care of medical professionals and they still mess with folks.

  23. She didn't invent those movie references. She saw them, either by watching these movies, or trailers etc. In our society, we are more and more concerned by not offending people, or even risking to trigger feelings of being offended, to the extent that, in some places, the law gets involved (i.e. pronouns for transgendered people, etc). But here we have a population of more than 50 millions worldwide and more than 2 millions in the US alone who can be easily affected by violent, morbid or vicious content, and nothing is done to protect them. And this is just for this specific condition. But there are a lot more out there. Their only problem is that their cause is not part of a PC agenda to wage a war on other values. They need a voice. Thanks TED for giving it to her this time. We should all be aware of our neighbors' plights. More genuine goodness and kindness.

  24. There is something special about this women, I have seen her in a video or two before this TED talk. She seems smart, she is beautiful, and most of all she is open she is willing yo be a face or to give this "monster" a face, and promote awareness. This is awesome, keep up the good work.

  25. Can Somebody tell me… How can I contact this girl? Because my sister has schizophrenia… And I don't know what to do… I need help..

  26. Cecilia is one brave young woman. Openly talking about this deeply troubling condition takes guts. More power to her

  27. And why not to say:I don t have schizofrenia?I m perfectly sane.I m a perfect human being?What you think you become.Isn't it?

  28. My grandpa has schizophrenia. His is paranoid schizophrenia. He kept accusing people of poisoning him, even his children and some grandchildren. It's such a horrible illness

  29. The movie “A beautiful mind” reminds me of her. She is so strong and brilliant!! I am glad she has decided to share her story with the world.

  30. WOW, you are an amazing individual! How articulate you are. Your fortitude to fight though the stigma attached to mental illness and become a warrior for a disease that is very misunderstood, so impressive ❤️

  31. She seems to have been deeply influenced by some movies she's seen, probably best for her not to watch a horror movie ever again..

  32. Sometimes the quietest people have the loudest minds. Understanding is the first key to helping. Although we may never know what you are truly going through. We are one step closer to understanding this disease. Mental Health is important subject that is often overlooked in America. Thanks for the Ted Talk, keep helping others with your compassion.

  33. Shes really brave, to be in there and talk in front of soo many people who listening and watching her, plus her hallusination that will be make her more nervous and make her feel scared, but she do it! Really amazing!

    Schizophrenia is one of many abnormality in psychology, really hard for who have this abnormality and i know no one want to have hallusination and whisper every second time. So one things that we should know is, we should to support everyone who have schizophrenia. Dont judget them bc u never know what is like to be like them who always scared with all whisper from they brain and all hallusination that maybe really terrify, and they are not monster! They just need us to be a good person for them and never judget them.

  34. I wonder if schizophrenia has anything to do with REM and how the brain stores it’s memories. Like maybe all schizophrenia is, is REM whilst awake. This guy went “crazy” after now sleeping for a few days because his REM dreams kicked in whilst he was still awake

  35. It is good to see someone going public in a positive way about this. Another person who is a prominent speaker about schizophrenia is Elyn Saks.

  36. Demonic possession can cause these symptoms. I know from a personal experience. It involved a 110yr old copy of The Lesser Key of Solomon. And as i turns out the Bible is the word of God. Someone ask me to explain please.

  37. Girl, you have a special gift, you can see things that other people can’t, learn how to control your vision.

  38. So brave. Some people just have guts and charge toward glory. I expect more great things will come from her.

  39. I have some sort of psychosis
    But I don't have family or friends so people like me, from my social class
    Are not entitled to get help just to die alone somewhere

  40. Thank you for your bravery. Our world. NEeds more information on emotional illness. Manny of us suffer in silence. Thank you for opening the door. I also advocate for emotional illness.

  41. At 10:19 the blog says that she has schizoaffective disorder. Schizoaffective disorder is not schizophrenia and depression. Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are mutually exclusive disorders meaning you cannot have both. Your diagnosis may change from one to the other but you cannot have both. This is important because schizoaffective disorder has a better prognosis than schizophrenia. It is not uncommon for those suffering from schizoaffective disorder to function very well and have jobs and careers like this young lady. It is, however, rare for someone with schizophrenia to do so well. This is partially due to the fact that those with schizophrenia often never recognize that they have a disorder and resist treatment because they think they don't need it. Claiming to have a more serious illness than you actually do is shameful, even in the context of doing good things for those who suffer from said disorder.

  42. She's really pretty, a great public speaker, and has great stage presence. What I mean by the latter is that her self confidence in herself to share some of these living nightmares speaks volumes on what kind of person she is. She's totally and utterly awesome

  43. I wonder if when she is stabbed by the ring girl, can she feel it? Sometimes when I dream I can feel what ever is happening in my dream. The brain can do some amazing and sometimes terrible things. This girl is very brave. I applaud her

  44. I used to work at a facility that housed folks with mental illness & there was a guy who had delusions of these "kids". I would feel so bad for the guy, because you could see the fear in his eyes and you'd see him look around rooms absolutely terrified of these things.

  45. The voices that you are hearing are not your own obviously. They are demons. A person that can hear has been able to tap into that realm somehow. Jesus is the answer to you problem. If you want to know what happened, please feel free to contact me.

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