There are days when I want to believe that I do not live with schizophrenia, that every professional evaluation is incorrect, and every diagnosis I’ve been given is wrong. There are days when everything that happens points me in a different direction, days when my compass is affected by solar flares and witchcraft. I feel myself being pulled apart while attempting to blend in, trying not to be a burden, and doing everything I can to appear normal.
I’ve always been fascinated by people. As a child I much preferred biographies, novels about relationships, movies where emotions ran high and the characters bared their souls and spoke thoughts and feelings I never dared to own. My favorite section of the newspaper was, of course, ‘Dear Abby’. It’s no wonder that I chose a career in social work.
Four months is a long time to be away from expressing myself through the written word. I’ve missed sitting at my desk, in front of my computer, using a keyboard to write about living with depression. I enjoy sharing my stories to connect with others who might be struggling and hiding in the shadows with their mental illness.
In that brief moment I was reminded of how isolating and unpredictable our deepest emotions can be. Often we are afraid to think of them or acknowledge them; for fear that these emotions will grow bigger than us, swallowing us alive. We tuck them away, securing the lid tightly. Sooner or later, the lid will come loose again, or pop right off, and there it will be. Pain.
Be authentic. Show the world your real face. Be willing to speak from your heart so that others can better understand your disorder or condition, thereby distinguishing the myth from the person in front of them. You will likely see what I see: that with faith in one another we are not alone, and that together we can end the stigma and discrimination that we experience every day. We can live without shame or ridicule, from without or within. We have a right to be treated as human beings, not monsters or rejects.
I wouldn’t want to be independent of friends and family. Independence calls for taking care of ourselves. I know what it is to be devoid of humor, to feel crappy and want to isolate. Sometimes it’s inevitable but at other times just reaching out to a friend is the best thing we can do for ourselves. Have a great 4th and laugh!
So if my teenager needs to take a year or two to catch up, to truly live and feel, then please don’t try to put her star shape into a square hole. Don’t ask her the ‘standard’ questions about a prefab future. Try asking about her here and now or her dreams. Or better yet, let her ask the questions.
My objective is to share my experience, strength, and hope, by asking you to spend a few moments in my shoes. We can create a conversation where silence might have been. Misinformation fuels the stigma and discrimination that every person living with a mental illness feels daily, doing little to address the more significant challenges at hand: affordable health care, cultural inclusion, solvency, acceptance, and authentic, respectful support.