Mental illness can wreak havoc on our memories, but we can learn to live with that. Sometimes it’s like waking up from a dream and trying to reassemble it, never quite having all the components on hand. It’s a challenge, but one I’m willing to face to feel whole, complete, integrated, and stable.
I decided a long time ago that I didn’t have the energy for the tap dancing that bowing to stigma requires. This wasn’t a bold or noble move on my part. It was the need for efficiency. The stress and maintenance of this circus requires everything I’ve got. Superfluous activity and emotions are discarded to make room for problem solving.
A friend of mine is concentrating her graduate studies in drama therapy and is currently assembling a seminar on schizophrenia. When asked if I would like to contribute, I happily obliged. She wanted an excerpt from my unpublished manuscript to read in her presentation, so I opened up the file and started combing through it, searching for an excerpt that would most accurately convey my lived experience.
Considering that I lived in a world of my own, replete with sights and sounds that manifested sparkles and colors by the nature of my young life on the spectrum, that was enough for me. While the rest of the year held little intrigue if there wasn’t a parade or Frisbee in sight, Independence Day always delivered.
Like millions of other people whose only connection to the life we might have known once is an online conference call or video chat where a familiar face is only that and nothing more. No actual contact, no handshakes or hugs, no fascia or pheromones. Something’s missing. Something human.
What a mystery, this thing, mental illness. But what exactly is the critical issue? Just how horrible it is? How ugly, how dehumanizing? Or is it something more intricate, more profound than that? A thread throughout the historical narrative of this disease is that the afflicted one believes he is talking to God. Or God is talking to him.
I have a different perspective on life today. I’m less concerned with being normal and more enthusiastic about the integration that medication and wellness has afforded me. My self-conscious behavior and subsequent social awkwardness seem to have waned; life feels more easily manageable. My confidence has returned to a degree that I felt compelled to meet new friends, and with new territory to explore, I feel inclined to take chances that I wouldn’t have—or couldn’t have—when I was living in psychosis.