I believed that it was somehow normal for insects to live under the skin. I was too embarrassed to seek help because I never thought anything was wrong. Even after I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I kept my bug problem to myself. It’s only recently that I’ve opened up about it in therapy. I’ve dealt with it since my first break at twenty-one.
We are constantly told that bipolar is not something that can be cured. And that may definitely be true. But what we need to start telling each other is that there is a better way to live with it. Whether it comes in waves of hours, weeks, or months. We are the only ones in charge of taking care of ourselves.
Since getting my medications adjusted sixteen months ago, I’ve become incrementally capable of responding to the common reality despite schizophrenia’s influence. I’m more keenly aware of the difference between what I think is happening and what is actually happening. I’m growing more adept at handling reality as it comes to me, carefully sidestepping any mental pitfalls that might otherwise derail my ensuing thoughts and reactions.
When I was fresh out of college and struggling with my symptoms, my brother was there for me, listening without judgement as I shared my stories of paranoia. His compassion and strength helped calm me down. He was an anchor in the chaos of my volatile youth. A lover of life, he thwarted my suicide attempts and helped me rediscover my own will to live.
When I started to open up about disordered eating and body image, I learned that shedding light on the darkest corners of my life can help shed more light on a path to healing for myself and others. In the hopes that opening up about depression will do the same
A notification from the hospital lab slides across the screen. His test results are back. Hmmm. Lithium level not great yet, but at least nudging at the therapeutic range. Okay.
Society still paints with a broad brush when it comes to The Other. We’re raised from an early age to be aware of our differences rather than our similarities, which, when misdirected, can result in such ugliness as racism, sexism, and ageism. Mental illness is the last target for intolerant behavior, the last quarry for the cruel, because mental illness by its nature knows no division.
Twenty-five years ago, or so, I received the basic stamp of “anxiety” and “depression” from some doctors doing what they could with a fifteen-year-old girl who didn’t know what was going on. In fact, my initial diagnosis came after six to eight months of checking for heart problems, anemia, food allergies, and “period problems.”
I am always living with mental illness. It doesn’t magically go away because I take medication. The drugs help me manage my symptoms. Therapy helps with questions about the effect of the symptoms on my psyche. Psychiatry helps with the basic practical details of the meds. It all keeps me out of the hospital, which I appreciate. Medicated, I’m better suited to navigate life’s challenges. I can almost feel normal.