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A Fracture, Not a Break: Beyond the Label of Schizophrenia

Read one woman’s journey of stigma and embracing identity through the lens of schizophrenia and poetry.

In this introspective exploration, we follow the experiences of a woman as she grapples with the diagnosis, treatment, and societal perceptions surrounding this often misunderstood mental health condition. Unveiling the realities of living with schizophrenia, this story sheds light on the intricacies of navigating stigma, medication, and personal identity within the broader context of mental health awareness.

Woman holding a sunflower

Listen and read along below

“The Doctor explained that schizophrenia means a fracture of the mind. A fracture not a break. I needed a splint not a full replacement. I didn’t fear the word. It was a beautiful word. A small fracture, a fissure, a release of pressure, a creative outlet, a reason, something to write for.  And I, loving rhymes and words, loved the word even more.  Held onto the word like a buoy in a cyclone.  It wasn’t a red flag, it was a safe harbour.  My symptoms had a name.  Someone had been there before me.  Perhaps here was a path I could follow, perhaps there was a way out.  Perhaps there was hope. 

What I didn’t know, in making my way through the world, as a newly branded young adult, what I didn’t know is the stigma the word holds.  My husband and I, shiny from our wedding, were separated by the word.  I considered moving to a group home.  He said there may be unwell people there.  There may have serious illnesses.  Like schizophrenia.  I paused.  I held the Doctor’s referral letter.  Opened the unsealed envelope.  I read that I was an obese schizophrenic. It upset me.  I didn’t know I was overweight.

what I didn’t know is the stigma the word holds

My schizophrenia gave me sensitivities. I woke with a butterfly on my chest.  I lay in the hazy morning light.  It was a long time to lie with a butterfly.  It’s harder than it sounds.

Once I had the name, the label, I was changed.  I wanted to be well.  Wanted to shake loose all I had seen. I took my medication and the air cleared.  My husband and I could see again.  Side effects made me big, shaky, drooling, lactating, distant.  I moved slower in the world of medication.  But I persisted.  I started Clozapine in 1999.  Clozapine is a scary word for some. It worked for me. Where other medications had failed or savaged my body.  I had to have monthly blood tests.  I agreed. I had to take it every day. I agreed. I wasn’t compliant. I was in agreeance.  I would chew a brick to feel better.

I stopped studying when I started to fly instead of walk.  I always wrote.  I returned to uni and my safe place.  I wrote a book a collection of poems.  It was shortlisted for the Premier’s Book Awards.  This was exciting.  For a long time my book was on display in the State Library.  People started asking me questions about mental illness and for a long time I thought that people did understand.  When they read my book I felt they did understand.

Gently, gently I persisted.  I worked hard. Met people who understood.  Expanded my career as an Auditor of disability services.  Flew all over Australia for work. Spent a lot of time in the clouds.  It felt like I was on top of the world.  But people cringed at the word. It felt like I could have anything but I couldn’t have schizophrenia.  Sometimes people look for a reason to judge.  Often before they realise it’s a fracture and it’s tiny, barely noticeable. Mine was a blinding star, a rainbow, a shard of light. No-one’s word feels the same.  It’s how we carry our crowns.

I wrote a PhD.  I had a beautiful mentor who believed in me. I wrote so many words into poems and words about poems. So many they named me a Doctor.  It took me ten years.  It was my bonsai tree, my PhD.

Now I had many labels. I was a Doctor and an Auditor and a wife and a poet and a writer.  But best of all I was a mother. My favourite label. When my son looks at me he sees his mum.  He doesn’t see schizophrenia.

When my son looks at me he sees his mum.  He doesn’t see schizophrenia.

Doctors give labels and employers give labels and universities give labels.  Labels are given for lessons you learn, what you overcome. Schizophrenia is a hard label to wear.  Because of media.  Because of misunderstanding. Because of stigma.  But really, when you break it down, it’s a lovely word. A fracture of the mind.  A space for the poetry to shine through. For the wings to grow from.”

I would like to share my name, but I need to have a conversation with my son, when he’s old enough to understand what schizophrenia means.  His wings need to grow too.

Sunflower field

The author of this poem says “I hope that sharing a snapshot of my story helps to destigmatise schizophrenia.” If you would like to read more from this author, including their published work, reach out to

This year, the theme for Schizophrenia Awareness Week is “Mental Health. It’s time to do better.” Learn more here

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