He began hearing voices in his head at age 15.
Said Charles Steinbach, of Grand Junction, Colorado, in a telephone interview: “It started with hearing a man and a woman. They were good voices. They used to tell me and show me things, and would answer a lot of questions I had about life. I didn’t tell anyone about the voices until I was about 17, when I started hearing bad voices. I thought everyone heard voices and saw things like I did. So I didn’t tell anyone.”
Steinbach’s voices eventually fought over him, he said. After graduating from high school, he began a welding job, and one day a “bad” voice said to stick his hand into a dangerous situation so he would electrocute himself to death.
He said, “So I walked to the nearest pay phone, opened the phone book, and talked with a guy on a crisis hotline for 45 minutes.” Two weeks into Steinbach’s crisis house stay, a mental health professional diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia. It was only then he realized not everyone heard voices, hallucinated, and had delusional thinking and paranoia.
The National Institute on Mental Health defines schizophrenia as a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder.
And after all these years, Steinbach still hears voices, visually hallucinates, and has delusional thinking and paranoia. “I’ve studied it in my head for 20 years and now live in both worlds: the one outside and also my inner schizophrenic world.”
In other words, through years of trial and error, he has learned to differentiate in his head between the two worlds. He still hears the voices, which he “can’t not” hear, he said, but now chooses not to interact with them.
Today, Steinbach educates people on paranoid schizophrenia (especially through Youtube) and has spoken to doctors, lawyers, judges, and college students, trying to “show them a person like me can do well in life,” he said. Because of his Youtube videos, primarily, he gets telephone calls from around the world.
He said, “I try telling people you have to be able to accept what happened and work through it, even though it might take a long time. I did it, but it just doesn’t happen overnight. It took 25 years of my life to reach this far. Trying to separate out reality takes a lot of time, but I have a strong will.”