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Michelle is the founder of Schizophrenic.NYC, a fashion label that benefits the city of New York’s mentally ill homeless. She also suffers from Schizophrenia and knows first hand the stigma associated with mental illness. Here is here story:

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On Sundays I run a pop-up shop for my business Schizophrenic.NYC outside of St. Anthony’s Church on West Houston. Being on West Houston all day, I get to meet a lot of intriguing people. I tell them about my business,”Schizophrenic.NYC – started, created, and designed by me, a Schizophrenic New York City resident that wants to make a change in how New York City sees mental health, especially the mentally ill homeless.” Often I hear stories of how people can relate their lives to me or support me, and I love that. However, It doesn’t always go that way.

It was a hot sunny afternoon when a short woman in her fifties approached my shop table. I started to tell her about my business and she stopped me. She told me that she wasn’t sure if Schizophrenia was a real illness. Next, she asked me what Schizophrenia means for me in my life. I wasn’t really sure how to answer so I just simply said that It means that I talk to myself a lot. She then seemed confident when she asked me if It was possible to just stop talking to myself, if I really wanted to. I answered, “No.” Of course not. She replied, “Oh” and then walked away.

I didn’t say bye.

It hurts to know people think mental illness isn’t real. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. What made this woman so sure that saying this was ok? I’m sure she would never ask a cancer patient if they could stop having cancer if they really wanted to.

She would never tell a person with epilepsy that if they try hard enough, their seizures would stop. But, yet she believed that I could get rid of my symptoms, if really tried.

Trust me I’ve tried. I can’t. And I’m perfectly ok with that.