In a serious complement to my humorous take on my experiences with car service, I want to talk about the day-to-day reality of living with SZ. Elsewhere in here, I suggested moods are like waves: they crest, and then fall, and return. The rhythm of the blues had been consistent until I switched to the Geodon. More often than I'd like, the thoughts rose like a VU meter dipping into the red: the disc jockey's indication that the volume was too loud, and needed to be lowered. My worry screamed. Can I say it's gotten better? Yes and no. I cope in a healthier way with what goes on.
The blues are "just one think" gone into another think and then another. You have just one think and things turn around and before long the shot glass of happiness is empty and you're in a mood, and you wonder how you got there. I know what causes this: I have schizophrenia. My therapist, Max, told me on Monday night that my worries could go away or abate the longer I'm on the Geodon, or they could possibly always be there. I'm hanging in because I'm confident-or at least I hope-things will change when Left of the Dial is published.
That is why this week's second blog entry will be an excerpt from the book: I want to dramatize what's gone on. I told Max that my fears are irrational, and he said that word describes them exactly. Do I want this? No. The automatic nanosecond assumptions I make about what other people think of me have their roots in the subtle paranoia of SZ.
One incident: Last Saturday night, I sat in Uno's Chicago Bar and Grill with my sister-in-law, Delia, and Rosa and Christopher, my niece and nephew. The worry came on in full force though it had been mostly silent in late summer. Had I been with Ana, I wouldn't have hesitated to talk about it. Max told me I need to exercise judgment in what I share about the SZ and who I tell. A part of me wishes I could be open with everyone and that others would have compassion and understand.
My friend Robin suggested I need to "reality check" and change my thoughts. I'm working on this. The best I can do now is to embrace all my feelings when they come on-embrace each moment even if it's a blue one. How can I claim to do this? Things aren't going to be different. I don't pin my hope on a cure though I would like that for everyone. As long as I can manage the symptoms and work at a job I love and have my own apartment, I would rather any "cure" be given to someone who is a lot worse off.
What works: I've printed up the salient Connection blog entries I've written, and placed them in my goals binder to re-read. I'll do that tonight. It's tempting to wish my worries would end permanently, yet that's a dream. My assertion is that you have to move into the source of your discomfort and not resist what it has to teach you. Examine what's going on in that moment, live through it, embrace the challenge. Life isn't going to be easy, yet we shouldn't give up.
Cognitive therapy is one healthy tool for dealing with the SZ. At the end of this blog entry I'll link again to another entry in my archives that deals with a specific coping skill: reframing one's thoughts. At the end of my entries, I'll link to the archives when I feel certain things need to be re-visited. I've published close to 200 blog entries here, and you could benefit by reading the early ones if you haven't already, or if you want a refresher.
Evidence to the contrary helps to cancel out the effect of how I feel about the worry. An example of reverse reality testing: I'm a board member of Baltic Street AEH, Inc., a 95 percent peer run agency providing advocacy, employment and housing to people diagnosed with mental illnesses. Arriving at a meeting where everyone else was seated, I smiled and said "hello" to the new faces. At the end, I approached one woman and said, "Thank you for all the good work that you do."
Of course, I was worried-there goes that worry again-that another woman, M., thought I did something wrong, even though I asked her also at the end, "How are things going?" I was afraid she thought I had stared at her inappropriately at the beginning of the meeting. Last Thursday, I met M. on the Island to tour the division she's in charge of, and she was happy to see me. I chose to believe she wasn't acting this way and was genuinely pleased.
After introducing me to the staff, M. led me back to her office to chat. She said, "Thank you for coming. You know, C. told me after you left that night, ‘Chris has a sweet spirit.'" [C. is the woman I thanked for doing a good job.] I hinted to M. that the Stelazine had stopped working as effectively and she was concerned, although I told her I'm on the Geodon now and it's gotten better for the most part. We caught up on each other's lives and spoke in confidence.
The question to ask-I need to ask, and you need to ask-when the worry invades, is, "If what I thought was really happening, was actually happening, would that be the end of the world? Would it be worst thing that could happen?" So I doubt-on a rational, clear-headed level-that people think I'm hateful or not a good person. It helps to hear positive feedback, yes, it does help to hear someone called me a "sweet spirit."
We're all in this together. When I decided to devote my life to mental health advocacy, I met some of the most beautiful people and continue to do so. I would like to dedicate this blog entry to all of you-such sweet spirits, too. I have no doubt that it will work out in the end. I tell my story because in doing so, I believe I can change people's lives for the better. You're not going through this alone.
I have often said that if I can turn my pain into a thing of beauty for others who suffer, I will have done my job. This is why I'm here. I want to make it perfectly clear that recovery is worth striving for and every day is the opportunity to rise up and do your best. I have every confidence the effort we make is its own reward.
Have a joyful day.
Published On: October 14, 2008