Today is a difficult day. In an earlier post, I told you that I went public with my diagnosis several days ago. I had been hiding that secret for over twenty years. The response to my coming out, has been mostly positive, but today it is time to do something everyone with a mental illness can benefit from; it is time to separate myself from my illness, and give myself a pep talk and reality check.
I find the need for this, because now that people know I have schizophrenia, they are starting to look back at their history with me, and say, “Ah, I see. I should have known.” Then they follow it with an example of something I said, or did that they think is an indication of mental illness. None of their examples have been an accurate marker of my illness. My husband has kept me away from the majority of people when I am seriously ill, and my daily symptoms, of which there are many, happen on the inside of me, and generally speaking I only trust my husband with those details.
Because people are confusing my personality and character with my illness, it is time for me to say, “I am not my symptoms. My symptoms do not define who or what I am.”
I need to remind myself that I am an excellent student. During most of my adult life I have continued to take classes and complete programs to further my knowledge and increase my skill set. Once I took a culinary program and even though I found out I am not a very good cook, I never got less than an A on a test, and when it came time to memorize one hundred spices and herbs by sight and smell, I got a perfect score. In some ways, my brain works very well.
I need to remind myself that I am compassionate, and that I care for strangers, as well as, family and friends. I have spent the majority of my career as a social worker working with various populations. I have worked with children and families. I have worked with the elderly. I have worked with the homeless. I have worked with adolescents. I vote for leaders that support the most vulnerable among us. I weep for joy when someone overcomes an incredible obstacle, and cry tears of sorrow when there is injustice or cruelty.
I have friends. I know how to make friends, and to be a friend. Recently a friend of mine was going through a difficult cancer scare. I checked in on her daily just by e-mail to let her know I was there and thinking of her, and she told me later, that most of her friends disappeared during that time. You can count on me not to disappear at a critical time.
I love to laugh. I make up funny words, sayings, nicknames, jokes, dances, lyrics, etc. I am goofy, silly, and have a well of childlike behavior on which to draw from. I can cheer up my husband on some of the worst days in a matter of minutes. Okay, maybe you wouldn’t think I am funny, but that is one of the reasons he married me!
What things can you say about yourself that are positive, and have nothing to do with your illness? Remember this; you are not the sum of your symptoms. You are a valuable human being with much to give to this world.