Avolition is defined as a pronounced restriction of initiation and production of meaningful goals. The word literally means “poverty of will.” It is one of the five main negative symptoms of schizophrenia, often mistaken for laziness, disinterest, or ennui. When avolition’s driving the bus, I can want to do something, but I can’t figure out how to do it or why I should. I lack the energy or power to make it happen. As a result, I miss out on life. I miss out on me. I don’t realize there’s a hole until I can’t find the shovel.
In the years leading up to my official diagnosis, I’d been on a journey to find out what was wrong with me. Going under the assumption that anyone with expensively framed degrees made them qualified to evaluate, diagnose, and treat whatever was causing my consistent dark thoughts, extreme anxiety and suicidal thoughts, was, to put it mildly, a big mistake.
The recent shooting in the Navy Yard has everyone talking about mental illness again, a conversation we make after each tragic shooting. I mourn and pray for the families left behind.
I heard, on the radio today, a military representative say that he doesn’t think mental illness should carry the stigma that it does, that if someone isn’t well they shouldn’t be afraid to get help.
The familiar sensation of being outside of my body is amplified by a lack of dimension typically assigned to my everyday surroundings. I am here, but I don’t know where “here” is. Significance is not. I am being interviewed by an anonymous psychiatrist who will determine my eligibility for financial assistance by asking a series of standardized questions – questions drafted by people who likely never sat in my chair …
I wrote this blog on September 11, 2013, a day when it was okay to be sad. Yesterday you were not judged for having outbursts of crying, or openly expressing anguish, grief, loss, anger or bewilderment. Yesterday, if you exhibited any of these normal human emotions, you’d have been hugged and supported with understanding and compassion. There was no stigma attached to feeling depressed and hopeless while walking the streets with a lost look on your face.
Physical illnesses are cruel. Witnessing the outward effects of a disabling injury, or the withering weakness from chemotherapy, we empathize. We don’t question what we see before us: our loved ones being ravaged by a lentivirus or malignant cellular growth. For a moment we consider our own mortality, but our brain immediately deletes that notion. Our going concerns become other-focused. We circle the wagons instinctually.
Connecting with other human beings can be very difficult for me and for many living with mental illness. In my private life I rarely make a point to connect with people I don’t know. I live in a tiny house with four dogs and am an hour away from two of my children and many friends.