I hear voices like the clamoring of a crowded resturaunt. A word here, a snatch of conversation there, but mostly the babble....the loud overlapping babble of it all. I occasionally see things that aren't there and occasionally become so overwhelmed by light and sound that communication with those around me become all but near impossible. These moments come and go in waves, sometimes not popping up for over a year and then experiencing several a week.

Where did it come from? A schizophrenic great-grandmother whose genes trickled down the line,saturating my grandmother, dousing my own mother, leaving me with the subtle tracings of what is normally a devasting and torturous disease. Maybe I was the lucky one for having been so far down the genetic totem pole and maybe my child will be the luckiest one to not exhibit any of these symptoms at all. It's a tricky science - this study of schizophrenia - and I can only hope......

I do not wear this on a shirt. I do not proudly proclaim my genetic disorder as a badge, as a medal, as a scar. It is a part of who I am, like my brown hair or freckled face. It is not a mark of individuality, it is a mark of my DNA. And my DNA is not what makes me unique or cool. And certainly neither is this.

I want to tell these children who wear those t-shirts that hearing voices is not cool or funny or exciting. It is a frightening experience, a losing control of your senses, an overwhelming sensitivity that makes you question your very grip on the whole of reality. You live in fear of an episode while you are at work and getting fired. How will you pay the bills? You live in anxiety wondering if people you meet will want to continue knowing you once they have seen you in the moment's grip. You fear loneliness. And most of all, you fear yourself and begin to grapple with even the most simple aspects of what you hope is reality. You question, question, question and the questioning is exhasting and time-consuming.

I am the luckiest of this particular DNA coding on my mother's side yet - the attacks are smaller, less encompassing than what my mother experiences. I have learned to seek help when they hit, learned to stay focused on one sound, one picture, one person when I am at work and have an attack. I have learned to recognize what is my mind and what is really in front of me.

But it does not make me cool. How do you explain this to those who think it is? I don't know. I do know that ever ytime I see one of those shirts, it's a toss-up between wanting to strangle them and an amused, sad smile because I do hear voices and it's nothing like they wish it were.