I propose a revolutionary idea: that the schizophrenia never truly robs us of ourselves. Recovery isn't the reclaiming of who we were before the diagnosis; rather, it's an act of celebrating ourselves . . . just as we are.
For those of you reading this blog entry who are outsiders looking in on the world of someone who has this hardship, know that if you scratch beyond the surface, our personalities shine through. We want to be seen as people first.
And if you have a diagnosis, it's imperative to risk vulnerability to reach out to others and reveal yourself. Even for people who don't have what we have, relationships are risky business. Compounding that is telling someone you have a mental illness.
I prefer to say something along these lines, "After I graduated college, my grandpa, who I loved more than life itself, was in a coma, hooked up to a respirator in the intensive care unit. I was looking for work and visiting him in the hospital, and it became too much to bear. I had a breakdown."
How does this relate to celebrating ourselves? It gives me the option of not being defined as a "schizophrenic." I prefer to view what happened to me in human terms. Beyond that, it's nobody's business if I thought the world was ending and I had to save it.
Too often, we feel different from others, and insecure, so we retreat into a shell. If your loved one has done this, remember that he is hurting, probably feeling bruised and wounded by the prospect of his life having been altered in such a dramatic way. He, too, could want things to be like they were before. Give him enough time to sort through his feelings and get back on his feet. The healing process takes time.
The act of recovery leads to self-discovery, and also the other way around. As I rolled through one dead-end job after another, I realized that what I did (insurance) was at odds with who I am (a creative spirit). Hence I had to do what I love, or I'd never be happy. I'm sure a lot of us, coveting to be "normal" like everyone else, thought that if we charged out into the world and did what others did it would prove we weren't "crazy."
Long ago, I gave up this cookie-cutter life in search of my true self . . . only to find she was already inside me, waiting patiently to be let out. She wanted to be loved and accepted just as she was.
Living with the schizophrenia, it's hard to see the positive in having this illness, yet I urge you to find such a spin. My sensitivity, for one thing, allows me to relate to others at the same time it causes me to interpret other people's comments and actions in a way they didn't intend.
This year, I determined to make "self-acceptance" my new creed. What turned things around for me? It's going to sound unbelievable. One day, it dawned on me that God didn't want me to hate myself, and if He liked me, that was good enough. Liking myself was the Christian thing to do.
For too long, one of my tendencies was to beat on myself for being hard on myself: a double whammy. When I let go of the idea that I had to stop being hard on myself, I could relax and let it be. Now I recognize when it happens. . and CELEBRATE it. It's simply a trait, one I can't change any more than the color of my hair or my shoe size.
Find five things right now that you like about yourself, and throw in one in that doesn't traditionally "count." Could you actually like some of the things that are negative, like crooked teeth or your love of a good snooze? Sure. Why not. To quote the Tao Te Ching: "The Master is good to people who are good. She is also good to people who aren't good. This is true goodness. The Master doesn't take sides; She welcomes both saints and sinners." (Translation by Stephen Mitchell.)
As a writer, I've had to craft characters I don't like-and make them lovable. In each of us exists opposite tendencies. Welcome this duality in yourself. Be the master of your own happiness. Celebrate YOURSELF.
Have a happy recovery!
Published On: April 17, 2008