"In my mid-20s, it was like I was in a nightmare
"I wasn't diagnosed with schizophrenia until I was around 30."
A producer from the Dr. Phil show asks, "What else are they saying to you?"
"They're just telling me that I'm fat and people are going to laugh at me," she says. "Most of the time it's male voices. They will talk to me. They will talk to each other about me. Sometimes it's one, two. Sometimes it's like a whole group just shouting at me. There have been times that I wanted to stab something into my ears just to make them stop."
Stress can trigger voices and visions. "I often will see demons,
Mary tries to isolate herself from the world. She avoids people and works in an office with no windows and a closed door. "I recently thought that people were coming into my office a
"Earlier this year, my husband had an errand and left me at home alone and I was seeing demons waiting outside the bedroom door. When my husband came up the stairs and into the room, I thought he was the demon disguised as Ken."
"Mary was huddled next to the bed with the knife," says Ken. "And I took the knife away from her and held her to me. I had thought she was actually going to hurt herself. I only found out later that she thought I was the demon."
"The voices often talk to me in my car on the way home from work, and I answer them because I know I'm alone. They laugh at me. They tell me I'm a fat cow. And I tell them, 'Shut up,' you know, 'I don't need that from you. Just knock it off. Get out of my head.'
In advance of the show, Dr. Phil made certain arrangements to ensure that Mary would be comfortable, and to avoid causing undue stress that could trigger symptoms. He gave her a tour of his set and showed her the videotapes he would play during the show. He also invited her primary therapist, Joel Zeman, and positioned him where Mary could easily see him.
"It's very accurate," she says.
"Are you hearing voices today?" asks Dr. Phil.
"I heard some earlier," she tells him. "They said I'm going to make a fool of myself on the show. I also heard some on the plane coming in. They told me the plane was going to crash and that nobody would miss a fat cow like me."
Her behavior concerned Ken. "I thought it had to have had something to do with her psychological problem. I just wanted to take a step back and let her work through them but still be there for her," he says.
Dr. Phil says that today Mary is doing extremely well but points out that she's on medication. And despite the medication, she still hears the voices and has hallucinations and some paranoia. "But when she is off the medication and in a psychotic state, it's extremely intensified and difficult for her to tell what is reality and what is a psychotic episode, so I want everybody to get an idea of what it's like for Mary in a full-blown psychotic episode," he says.
"If I stop taking my meds, I get severe delusions, paranoia to the point where I can't function," Mary reveals. "The voices will shout at me to kill myself. Or that my son is going to kill me. It's a constant bombardment. I've seen myself disintegrate and decompose. I'll see demons. Sometimes I'll see them by themselves, like, free-standing. I'll see them inside other people and it'll jump from person to person, like they're stalking me. I will get a strong sense of smell of burning or decay that tells me that the demons are coming."
When Mary is off her medication, the voices only get worse. "I start to believe strange things: that I'm supposed to be a prophet of God and I'm failing and I'm going to go to hell. I hallucinate very badly. I'll see angels. When I see an angel I see a person who looks somehow cleaner and brighter than the average person. I also will start to see trails. Like, if I move my hand in front of my face I'll see the trails smeared behind it. The wood grain on doors will look like water flowing. Sometimes my screen on my computer at work will seem to melt. When I close my eyes I will see a kaleidoscope of colors churning in different patterns. Sometimes I'll see flying things. They'll fly at my face and I'll jump and I'll wave them away. When I'm driving and that happens I have to really focus on the road in front of me. It can be quite terrifying."
"Not usually, no," she says.
"I do want you to think about that because even though you have this problem, you're working, you're contributing to society, raising your son, being a wife. All of these
"Oh yes, absolutely phenomenal," he replies. "I'm so proud of her. She's amazing."
"They're just calling me an idiot right now," she says. "I'm ignoring them."
"So you're hearing this from like one side of your brain?" Dr. Phil probes.
"Actually, right now it's like it's in the center of my brain but it's not my voice, it's not a thought, it's an actual voice," she replies.
Dr. Phil asks Mary to mimic the voice for him.
"It's a male voice," she says, "and it's just, 'You're an idiot. You're going to make a fool of yourself on this TV show.'"
"So you're hearing that, the same as you're hearing me. That's just like another person talking to you, while I'm talking to you," he says. Mary says that's exactly right. "OK. How do you feel about the audience being here? And they're tough, you're not going to hurt their feelings," he says.
"I'm trying to forget they're there, frankly," she replies. "In groups there's always certain people that can read my mind and that put thoughts in my head if I look at them and make contact. So, I try to avoid that."
"My wife's one of those people," jokes Dr. Phil. "She can read my mind for sure. I mean, I'm just sitting here, thinking, and she says, 'You're not going to do that.' I think that's for real, though."