At the end of the day, I found the reason for journaling, then as now. Keeping a record of my thoughts, delusions, and hallucinations, as well as my day-to-day experiences, offers a window into my illness, empowering me to take action toward my recovery.
Sometimes people will ask about the content of my writing. When I tell them that I focus on living with schizophrenia and related issues, they inquire about my involvement with mental health, and I have, as a result, shared my diagnosis. So it’s a chain of questions that gets me to divulge. I only go there when I feel it’s appropriate, but I won’t shy away from a little stigma-busting when the opportunity arises.
Explaining to someone why I was out of work and on disability was often more difficult than describing the terror of psychosis, probably because everyone understands what it’s like to have a job, and maybe lose one, but almost no one understands schizophrenia.
I saw the struggle she was going through and hoped, as her friend, that this would help her express the emotions she was feeling. After I finished choreographing my piece she told me, “This really helped me see through my uncles eyes.” I also believed Belleza’s personal connection with my piece would help her express my aunt’s emotions more sincerely through my choreography.
To the uninformed public, the word “schizophrenia” seems to provoke more fear than understanding. It carries with it years of stigma, from images of horror movie stereotypes, to coverage of mass shootings. As far as the media’s concerned, when it comes to such negative imagery, I’m the Big Bad, and yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m afraid of monsters, I’m not one of them.
One thing is for certain—I don’t like feeling socially awkward. That can’t last forever, though, no matter how it may seem in the moment. I want to confront my situation because I don’t like being lonely. General anxiety has me second guessing myself, and social anxiety keeps me outside looking in. As uncomfortable as it might be, I’m ready for a change.
Of course, the first thing that comes into play is the stigma. The number of times I’ve heard someone say, “I’m so OCD!” the pop culture meme for explaining away control issues. At this point I’m aware of how social stigma functions, so I won’t be letting it get me down. Still, it’s out there in spades, pushing the self-stigma triggers ever more so, prompting mindful response over knee-jerk reaction. Dealing with another diagnosis is challenging enough without letting stigma derail my quality of life.
The staff on our wing had their work cut out for them, with twenty-four patients to attend to. Community therapy concentrated on setting and achieving goals. Occupational therapy focused on creatively integrating right- and left-brained processes. Twenty-four individual viewpoints on life; twenty-four souls needing to communicate, each in their own unique way. A microcosm of the very world we longed to be a part of, treating one another with respect when someone went off the rails, supporting one another when life’s lessons got too hard to shoulder alone.