Coping with Schizophrenia: The Importance of a Sense of Humor

by Christina Bruni Patient Expert

When you live with schizophrenia every day, you develop some coping tactics, most notably a sense of humor. That, and since I have mini-meltdowns on the subway, car service is often the only option. I'm on a first-name basis with various drivers throughout Brooklyn.

Tommy drives me to the gym after work so I can get there in time for Pilates. He drove me back home before the presidential debate began. Martin whisked me to Angelo's so I could meet D. for dinner - my treat - since he won a "volunteer of the year" award. Robbie took me home before the men with violin cases walked in.

Sunday I intended to take the Red Apple service to Maya's. When I got there, a sign on the locked door read, "Landlord has taken over the premises," and overturned garbage bags littered the office. Alas, Bud was their last driver to take me to Park Slope-I found out he was a social worker with burn out who decided to try something different-hence, a cab driver and therapist rolled into one.

Ali is particularly loquacious on midnight runs. Diego from Las Cruces arrives on Las Cruces time-five minutes turns into a half hour on a good day. Always the matter of tipping: I peel bills from my wallet like it's going out of style.

One thing: I don't use King's. I've gotten in two accidents in their cars. You know it's not a good sign when a driver is talking 90 miles an hour into his cell phone as he drives 100 down the highway. A motorist rear-ended us, and my head hit the seat in front. When the nameless driver got out assessing the damage, the other guy claimed he had no brakes, as if that excused him for hitting us from behind.

Also, King's charges too much. I prefer Bridgeview because they're the cheapest and most reliable. I also like them because all the cars have seat belts; I've gotten into too many cars where I'm unable to buckle up, which accounts for my head hitting the front seat when the guy rear-ended us.

Then I get guys who sing along to Christian music at the top of their lungs, or blast 50 Cent on the tape deck. Sometimes, you never know where you'll end up unless the driver has GPS.

How does this blog entry relate to living with schizophrenia? Sunday night, Maya and I lingered at Eloise's apartment until nine o'clock, so I didn't want to take the train back from Maya's. I knew I would have a panic attack-just thinking of the possibility, I couldn't get on the train.

D., on Saturday, suggested, "You take car service because you're anxious-you want to get there fast." Little did he know the truth, and it wasn't something I wanted to tell him.

How, you may ask, can I afford these getaways? I've stopped ordering dinners in and eating out, and I cook my own meals. This week I'm off from work so I can take the bus to the gym. I kid you not-when Sue gave me the psychic reading the day before Labor Day, she read me like a book, "You're all nerves, your mind is excitable."

I had a friend in the neighborhood who took car service everywhere, and if you ask me, that's excessive. One thing I also do is take the express bus into the City, and home from Manhattan. I like to settle into a comfortable seat, listen to my iPod, and read a magazine-I multi-task like it's going out of style, too.

Is car service the ultimate panacea? I doubt it. Aside from being expensive, it's best I deal with my anxieties head-on. Though my good friend Robin [the other expert blogger] suggested that if I need to take car service or the express bus, "by all means, do so."

I'm torn. I don't have a bottomless wallet, but I don't have a well mind, either. I give credit to all of us living with schizophrenia who greet each new day with courage and resilience. As long as I have another day, I'm going to fight this thing with both fists swinging, like a boxer-like a champ. I won't take my gloves off until I'm dead. The truth is, this is what I have in this lifetime-it's my cross to bear-and I will carry it with dignity.

Right now, I want to underscore the benefit of having a sense of humor to lighten the load. Schizophrenia isn't kind, and it isn't pretty, and yet we can cope with it better by using humor to not take things or ourselves so seriously. My goal is to attend comedy clubs. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

My worries dog me, they always have, it's nothing new, and I'm not certain I can change this fundamental tendency. In a coming blog entry, I'll talk about this on a serious note.

Not now. I gotta go. Diego's downstairs. I'm meeting Dmitri at the Sheepshead Bay Cinema for a screening of the Miracle at St. Anna.

Christina Bruni
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Christina Bruni

Christina Bruni wrote about schizophrenia for HealthCentral as a Patient Expert. She is a mental health activist and freelance journalist.