A TikTok artist’s portrayal of his schizophrenia-induced hallucinations has captivated millions of viewers on the platform by providing an accurate and rare visual representation of the disorder.
Christopher (@xoradmagical) never thought he’d be in the position of changing the public perception of the disorder before he was diagnosed with it in 2017. Prior to his diagnosis, Christopher had studied psychology, but his interest in the field didn’t prepare him for actually experiencing it.
He even admitted that he, too, used to stigmatize schizophrenia and dismissed those who have that diagnosis as being “crazy.”
“I feel remorse for that,” he told In The Know. “By 2016, 2017, I had a wake-up call.”
His journey since then has not been easy. Christopher was frustrated with the diagnosis while also dealing with others’ misconceptions over what the diagnosis meant for him.
“People think ‘schizophrenia’ is a bad word,” he said. “The media often portrays us as lethal, murderous and unaware — that’s simply not true.”
In reality, individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia are at a greater risk of being victims of violence, a study published in the monthly medical journal Psychiatric Services found. A person with schizophrenia is up to 14 times more likely to be victimized than be arrested for violence.
“Schizophrenia is a spectrum,” Christopher added.
Christopher was initially drawn to TikTok as an outlet for his anger. At the time of his diagnosis, he felt very alone, and he was also homeless for a period of time.
“If you go back to [my] earlier videos, I have an obvious anger within me that I had a hard time articulating,” he explained. “Through continuing [to make] my videos, I started to lighten up when I realized I wasn’t as alone as I felt. So many people go through what I go through, and I realized I had a responsibility to take care of myself.”
Christopher now has over 1.5 million followers on the platform.
Part of what draws so many viewers to Christopher’s videos is his attempts to portray his hallucinations, which are a common symptom of schizophrenia. Hallucinations aren’t limited to seeing things that aren’t there — they also include hearing voices or even smelling things others can’t.
Christopher told In The Know that acknowledging his hallucinations in this way — by recreating them for his audience — has helped him form a “connection” between him and the images that used to terrorize him.
“The uncomfortable truth a lot of people don’t want to hear is that I’m comfortable with my hallucinations and the faces — yes, even when they get dark,” Christopher said in one TikTok. “I’ve done the work and the self-care to get to a point where I’m OK with it.”
Some of Christopher’s TikToks feature “schizophrenia simulators,” which are his best attempts at recreating what he sees and hears while going about his day. In another TikTok, he described that his process feels like the hallucinations are “drawing themselves.”
One of Christopher’s recurring hallucinations, Chester, is now a quasi-celebrity to Christopher’s millions of followers. Christopher explained that he named Chester as a way to humanize the experience of seeing him. Chester is a “helpful, funny, witty and energetic” hallucination who has talked to Christopher over the course of several years.
“I know this sounds sad to neurotypicals, [and] I have many friends who are people in the world, but over the years talking with this hallucination and spending many nights with him has created an uncanny bond I can’t even put into English,” he told In The Know.
Since expanding his platform, Christopher continues to share his animations on TikTok as a way of destigmatizing schizophrenia and educating others about what his life is like.
“[The response] makes me feel like what I’m doing is inclusive to those who may feel [like] they cannot speak up,” he told In The Know. “I have connected with many psychosis advocates as well as other schizophrenic people, and we talk about hallucinations, [the] nature of reality and what it means to be who we are.”
The comments speak for themselves — it’s difficult to find a video that viewers who work in the mental health field or have family members with schizophrenia haven’t thanked Christopher for.
“As a therapist,” one viewer commented on Christopher’s TikTok, “your simulator videos give me a deeper understanding of what some of my patients truly go through, beyond just the dsm explanations.”
A lot of neurotypical viewers ask Christopher about medications or solutions for his hallucinations. Even today, schizophrenia is one of the harder psychiatric disorders to treat because the symptoms can vary so drastically between patients.
“I take medication for mood, but I don’t for psychosis,” Christopher explained in response to a TikTok follower’s question. “When I take anything that’s anti-psych, I don’t feel human. I don’t feel anything, I just am a zombie.”
Plus, as Christopher’s platform has grown and his reach has impacted millions of people in a positive way, he doesn’t feel any rush to “fix” himself.
“My whole point is I love who I am and am okay with my experience but people want to guilt you into being ‘fixed’ even when youre happy,” Christopher wrote in another comment. “It is odd.”
What Christopher hopes viewers can take away from his videos is just a basic understanding of how schizophrenia really works.
“We are people like anyone else, and the stigma has made it hard for us to express ourselves,” he said. “We don’t value ourselves any less for what we experience.”
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