The hospital is a hopeless place. People dying. People sick. People helpless and grieving. The most peaceful place in this house of horrors is the maternity ward. Here life is being given rather than taken away. Here is where myself and my colleagues frequently visit. We hover, unseen, above you inconsequential mortals with your trivial problems. You have named us the 'mental disorders'. I do not find this name applicable. We are certainly orderly. We attach ourselves to your very personalities wreaking havoc and leaving destruction in our wake. It takes precision and practice to effectively consume the portions of your soul so vital to our existence. Definitely not disorderly. 'Mental parasites' would have been far more appropriate.
The name you have given to me specifically is Schizophrenia. Each and every one of us 'parasites' chooses the hospital as our own personal smorgasbord. Much as you people with your restaurants, we have our own preferences as to where we wish to feed. Alzheimer's prefers to dine on the elderly. Eating disorders such as Pica, Bulimia, and Anorexia prefer young teenagers with their oh-so-fragile self esteem. Others such as Anxiety, Depression, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, will feast on individuals of any age. As for myself, I prefer to be here in the maternity ward. It is a much happier environment than that of the rest of this decrepit hospital. My close companions, who also prefer to prey on the weak, include Autism and Attention Deficit Disorder.
Most of us 'parasites' begin to feed immediately after finding a host, quickly catapulting their fragile personalities into a state of continued degeneration until there is nothing left. It is then that we leave them, broken and empty, and find another, fresher, body to occupy. Not me. I am unusual in this aspect. Upon entering my host body, fresh out of the womb, I go into a hibernation of sorts. Having found a safe place to rest in peace, I sleep for exactly twenty-two years, four months, nine days, and sixteen hours.
It is now that I should inform you how we obtain such specific chronological instructions. I am one of the 3.5 million cases of Schizophrenia currently feeding in the United States of America. Countless millennia ago, my siblings and I were brought into existence. We did not come about all at once, but individually over hundreds of thousands of years. We were not born, nor were we created, we simply arose due to spontaneous mutations in DNA. We are an accident. Regardless, we feel the need to feed, to survive, to thrive. Upon our arrival into this broken world, we are given a specific incubation period, unique to each of us, in which we will lie dormant in our host. Resting. Waiting. My incubation period is twenty-two years, four months, nine days, and sixteen hours.
After this exact amount of time, an alarm will sound in my host. I believe you humans call it a 'snap'. Anyway, this very loud 'snap' will interrupt my slumber and I will begin to feed. I begin in the center of your brain, the place where your personality hides. It is here that I will begin to munch on this ambrosia, poking holes in the silky cloth that makes up your entire being. Until I have caused an increment of damage, things will appear relatively normal in my host. As I will continue to feast, your mind will be ravaged. First come the delusions. You will inaccurately analyze the world around you. You will think 'maybe so and so likes me'. I will feed on this idea until the message is scrambled. Your brain then misinterprets the thought as 'so and so wants to steal my pet cat'. Or perhaps you will think 'oh, that group over there is discussing weekend plans', at which point I will interfere, changing the message to 'that group is transpiring against me'.
Next will come the hallucinations. It will happen as you are sitting alone in an empty room. You will begin to hear voices. Speaking to you. Taunting you. Haunting you. It is not I who comes up with their corrosive messages; that is entirely of your own mind. An unfortunate side effect as I poke holes in your personality. Your dark thoughts manifest and you perceive these as actual voices. It is around this point that your family will begin to notice that you are seemingly 'off'. Unable to pinpoint the underlying problem, they will assume you are going through a 'phase' or a 'rough patch' and are unlikely to provide you with professional help; which is okay because you don't want them to. Why would you want help from those that are secretly plotting your demise?
I continue to feed, quenching the hunger I have held dormant for so long. As my needle like teeth poke holes in your soul, some pinpricks inevitably plant themselves in your brain tissue. As a result, you will begin to have muscle spasms. Your neck and arms twitch in random intervals. It is now that your family realizes your need of professional council. If I am unlucky, they will force you into treatment. They will give you strong medications that drastically impede my ability to feed. Sometimes. Depending on which brain I choose to occupy, the drugs may have no effect. Others may be devastating to my survival, threatening my life. I learned long ago to choose my victims with care. Those with unhappy families typically have brain chemistry that supports drug resistance. Luckily you ignorant creatures have failed to realize my weakness and I am able to thrive with the right amount of luck.
As my hunger is slowly fulfilled, I will slow down in my consumption of your essence. Holes have been poked in the thin cloth that is your personality to the point that it now has the appearance of Swiss cheese rather than the silk fabric it used to compare to. At this point, years have passed. You have so very little left now that your loved ones have realized that you're 'psychotic'. At this point, you will have what your illiterate physicians refer to as negative symptoms. For you this means your personality is all but lost. For me this means my quest is almost complete. You will be unable to properly function in society. You lack empathy. You express no emotion. You are a shell of your former self. You are my shell.
You may be suicidal. You may attempt it. You may succeed. In which case I would simply find another host. A younger host. A fresh host. If you do not go down this path, I will soon leave you. I need a new personality to feast on if I am to survive. I will not take with me the damage I have caused. That is permanent. You may never get your life back in order. Most don't. That is not my problem. You may think that this is cruel and unjust but you humans with your unhappy families, abuse, and alcoholics create the perfect environment for me and my brethren. But before I can begin my consumption, I must first find a worthy host.
This brings me back to the third floor of St. Mary's Medical Center. The maternity ward. Twenty tiny babies lined in neat rows, sleeping soundly in their bassinets. My gaze falls upon young Lucas Scott. He is small, weighing only six pounds and five ounces. Occasionally, this insinuates that the mother did not eat properly while she was pregnant. I scan his chart for other anomalies. The paperwork tells me that he could possibly have FAS or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. His mother drank alcohol while pregnant. The odds were looking better and better for my prolonged survival. Neglectful parents breed a very cozy home for me. Yes, this one would do nicely. Floating downward slowly from my vantage point, I fell towards young Lucas. Upon reaching his bassinet, I reached my transparent arms around him and leaned my formless face towards his. Planting a small kiss on his forehead, I absorbed myself, as if by osmosis, into his tiny, malleable skull.