An 18-year-old artist named Kate frequently posts striking illustrations to Instagram. Pictures of flies, disembodied eyes, and self-portraits where her own eyes are circled with rings of red and yellow show what Kate sees — the experiences that any outside viewer wouldn't know she has.
Kate has schizophrenia, and these images depict the hallucinations she has every day.
She recently shared her story on Bored Panda, writing about how drawing helps her cope with her schizophrenia.
But Kate doesn't draw her hallucinations for other people, she draws them because putting what she sees to paper helps her deal both with managing her hallucinations, and how they make her feel.
"In my hallucinations I hear voices, sound effects, random noises, and I often see bugs, faces, and disembodied eyes," she wrote on Bored Panda. "Organization, communication, paranoia, depression, anxiety, and managing my emotions are the biggest struggles for me."
Although her drawings, which she posts to her Instagram page, are meant to help her heal, Kate wrote the Bored Panda post in part to help others understand that schizophrenia isn't always like what you see in movies.
"I’m not living out on the streets screaming about alien abductions," she wrote.
Media portrayals of people with schizophrenia often perpetuate negative stereotypes like this, and paint people with the disease as murderers or villains, according to a 2012 analysis of 41 movies.
While some people do have vivid hallucinations and sometimes act on the voices they hear, that's not what schizophrenia always looks like. Many people, like Kate, are able to manage their symptoms with medication, therapy, and support from family, friends, and authority figures like teachers and employers, according to the National Institute for Mental Health.
That network of support is important in both managing the disease and recognizing that you or a loved one may have it, but it can be damaged by public perception of schizophrenia in which we're taught to fear people with the disease, according to NIMH.
The organization did a national survey in 2008 to explore gaps in understanding of schizophrenia, and what can be done to help those who have the disease and their families and caregivers.
What they found is disheartening. "The public feels differently about people in treatment than it feels about people not in treatment; but still, to a large degree, people don’t want to date, work for, or work with people with schizophrenia," NIHM said of the survey.
This type of fear is based around the understanding that all people with schizophrenia behave the same and, as Kate says in her Bored Panda post, schizophrenia isn't just one experience.
"There are [sic] people like me who just stay at home most of the time cooped up in their room," she wrote. "It is a spectrum of symptoms with varying severity levels. Each person’s experience is unique."