Sympathy is earned through a measure of struggle, pain, and vulnerability. In showing these things to another person, you show who you are. This is the true you. This is the you only you know who exists when no one else is there. This is the you who, despite closing your eyes, can’t seem to fall asleep at night. In showing this self to another person, you open the door to criticism, to the possibility that the person you’re showing these things to will scoff and laugh in your face, or worse use the things you show them to belittle you and to take you down a notch.
In my seven years of living with schizophrenia, one thing that keeps coming up, the thing I spend my time trying to rationalize away is the paranoia that people, doesn’t matter who, are having a good laugh at my expense or are making fun of me for some perceived weakness. For a long time I tried fighting against the delusions of criticism by acting the way I thought I was supposed to act. I maintained a script of verbal and non-verbal communication that I thought would dispel the things they were making fun of me about. For some unknown reason though, the fakery was obvious no matter how hard I tried to act the right way which lent even more credibility to the rumors and accusations I thought I could hear them saying right outside of earshot or the laughter behind my back.
Call it a serious ego trip when you perceive that the entire world is watching you and worse, making fun of you. I believed it though.
It didn’t occur to me much later on through serious introspection, myriad antipsychotic drugs and a good amount of therapy that it was ok for me to act the way that came most natural to me. It made me realize that in order to get past all the shit I needed to accept the very real possibility of it being true. I needed to accept that people were going to be assholes and that the way I thought about things wasn’t a reality.
It made me realize some very important things about myself. There were some things I was fighting so hard against that I didn’t realize that these things were natural and inherent in every human being on planet earth. I was terrified of natural, everyday circumstances that don’t get a second thought from most people who are normal and don’t suffer with a brain disorder.
I also thought that since I was living with this paranoia that people were out to get me and the partnering delusions that they were thinking things and saying things behind my back, I was broken. I believed my disability had given me a life sentence to being on the fringes of society along with all the other broken people out there.
In truth, were it not for my parents and a good doctor, I would probably be somewhere out on the streets.
Along with the prognosis of being a stigmatized member of the fringes, I knew, there likely would never be a possibility of me finding a relative stability in the things which many people complain about. A job, a place to live, and maybe, just maybe, the possibility of love.
In those several years since I broke, I realized I had to start new. It was a new life with this diagnosis and starting over from scratch was something I would have to learn how to do. I have equated my growth over the last seven years to a relative childhood, that is, growing up from a beginning to figure out who you are as a person.
Now that I’m seven years in, and through an intense last couple of years I’ve been able to figure out what I am, who I am and accept that. I feel as if I’m finally getting my footing after a long time struggling to, not only keep up, but figure things out.
In truth, I know I am not some broken thing. I contribute to society, I create works of art and I write with my own voice.
I do not wait for anyone to define me and if by chance, they get a glimpse of my inner world, they are welcome to their criticism. I’m good.
Fight makes the man, but there are some things you can’t fight, and those, you just have to accept.
Schizophrenia is not a death sentence if you don’t let it become one. I’m a living testament to that. And if you do let it become a death sentence, well, have fun.
I fight to be as normal as I can, to be an equal among the rest of society. You will not find me talking to delusions or hallucinations, you will not find me disheveled spouting nonsense words in a gutter, and you will not find me muting my sorrows in liquor, weed, heroine or any other drug but you will find me at work, clinging to the small hope that one day my work will make me a self-sustaining living where I ask only for the basics of a place to sleep, a girl by my side, and maybe if I’m lucky, a little slice of peace.