Having an episode of psychosis or mania is hard, and trying to put the pieces of my life back together afterward is brutal, but the things society says to me every day cause me to lose a piece of myself even when I should be repairing the damage.
The things that I do while psychotic and the things that I say to people cause me great shame once the episode is over and I can think rationally. Not only do I have to live with things like telling people I was Jesus, or telling people how the government was out to get me, or that I was being filmed or recorded, or any number of other delusions I may have had during an episode, I also have to live with the day to day barrage of messages that tell me that I am dangerous, that my illness is something to make light of, or even make fun of. I have to live with the stigma, and if you don’t believe there is a stigma associated with mental illness, spend an hour on social media and you will see it.
I am not going to go into all of the jokes and memes and things people say on social media every day that chip away at my self-esteem, because I have written about them before. But I will say that even people who like to call themselves progressive, and think they are so loving and accepting join in the “fun.” People who would like to think they are sensitive to social situations, and the people who are marginalized, toss out words like insane, nut-job, lunatic, and pass around cartoons depicting a “crazy” lady with PMS.
When I see those words written from people who claim to like or love me, all I feel from them is a lack of understanding and hate. Yes, I literally feel as if they are sending hate at the mentally ill, and at me. Everyone in my life knows that I have schizophrenia. Anyone that cares what having schizophrenia is like can read my book, Pills, Poetry & Prose: Life with Schizophrenia, they can read my blog, or even more amazing, they can ask me.
If someone were to ask me what having schizophrenia is like, I would tell them it can be like going to a place that has your worst fears, and having to live those fears out for days, weeks, and possibly months. Are you afraid of being tortured? You will believe you are about to be tortured. Are you afraid of going to jail? You will believe you are going to jail. Of course, during psychosis you will even be afraid of things you didn’t know you were afraid of. I can think of nothing more appropriate to call it, than hell on earth. It really is like the popular images and thoughts on hell. In the beginning psychosis is usually pleasant for me, but it always turns to terror over time, and that terror is total and complete.
So, if you ever wonder what you can do for someone with a severe mental illness, I have a suggestion; you can help build them up. The world is constantly tossing self-esteem battering information their way. You can be the change in their lives. You can help them see their talents. You can help them see their strengths. You can point out their positives. You can be kind to them, because it is tough. It is so damn tough, and we all get tired. It’s exhausting to constantly try to tell yourself you are okay when the world has another message for you. It’s almost impossible to fight the world on your own. Be an ally. Spread the love.