I don’t know how many weeks ago it was that I came out of the closet about my diagnosis. Twelve weeks? Sixteen weeks?
It hasn’t been long. I assumed a lot of things before coming out. One thing I assumed is that it would be a bigger issue with people than it has turned out to be. Of course, I can’t really tell what people are actually thinking, and it will be some time before I see if they dismiss me in conversations and in other ways, because they perceive my opinions as less now that they know I have paranoid schizophrenia. I will know more about this with more time and more experiences with the people who now know my diagnosis.
All that aside, one thing that I was very surprised about, was that I don’t absolutely love and agree with all advocates for schizophrenia. I thought that all of the people advocating for the reduction of stigma, more understanding, and better treatment would all be on one happy carriage together heading in the same direction.
Big disappointment, because we are not in the same carriage and we are definitely not heading in the same direction.
There are advocates that push holistic healing of schizophrenia without the use of medications. I have said this before, without medication I would be dead. Dead doesn’t give you the chance to say a treatment isn’t working. Dead is dead, no second chances. I find people who push holistic type treatments on other people to be irresponsible. There is no way of knowing if someone’s schizophrenia is in remission and could spring up at any time bringing voices that are cruel or even dangerous. Remission is not a cure. Remission can turn to active in a day. These advocates also make schizophrenia seem like something you can overcome. I can’t overcome a brain disease. I’m wired for it. Therapy isn’t going to make it go away just like exercise and vitamins aren’t.
There are also advocates that say and use words and phrases that continue to stigmatize people with mental illnesses. Calling each other paranoid schizophrenics instead of a person with paranoid schizophrenia (I occasionally make this slip, but try very hard to correct myself). We are people with paranoid schizophrenia we are not defined solely by our illness.
There are advocates that believe and perpetuate the myths about schizophrenia in their writing. For instance they will have a character who suffers from schizophrenia and have that character want to kill someone. We get enough of that in Hollywood without finding it in the mental health community.
So, I am new to this life as an person who is open and honest about living with schizophrenia and in some ways the surprises have been good, but in other ways, I find that I get angry and want my voice to be heard as loudly as some others, because I think I have something important to say.
If I had a platform what would I say?
Get a good doctor, take your medications, limit stress in your life, surround yourself with love, and compassion, find a hobby, use your mind, take care of your body, and laugh as much as possible at yourself and the situations you find yourself in. Be bigger than your illness every day, by loving other people or giving something, no matter how small, or seemingly insignificant, to the world. You are valuable. You are loved. You have talent and you matter. As sure as there is water in the ocean you matter to this world you were born into. One last thing, know you are not alone, even in the most terrifying moments, we’ve been there and made it through, you can too.