People who suffer from a mental illness know disappointment and discouragement first hand: medications that don’t work, another psychotic episode, failure at things that seem easy for others. Those who are suicidal can’t find hope in the future, or possibly have had their dreams crushed. Those of us who have a mental illness don’t share all experiences, but we do share those heart crushing ones.
When I was young, my family was poor. I didn’t know we were poor, and I never felt like I went without anything. It was the late sixties and early seventies and the income gap wasn’t as wide as it is today, and maybe that is part of it. Advertising for all the latest toys went along with Saturday morning cartoons, but even though I wanted everything I saw on television, I don’t think I expected to receive everything. Maybe, one of the major differences between when I grew up and today is that we played outside more. Our bikes were important, forts were important, climbing trees was important. Computers and IPhones weren’t even a dream in any of the minds of kids of my generation. Toys were secondary compared to all the adventures we had.
I don’t know if it was the fact that we were poor, or the fact that my parents didn’t complete college, or the fact that I was a girl at a time when girls were still required to take home economics, or the fact that there were traumatic elements to my childhood (like alcohol and domestic violence), but I never had a dream about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I have no idea how I answered the question, “Becky, what do you want to be when you grow up?” that well-meaning adults certainly asked of me.
I never had a dream. I never planned for my future. I never had hopes of one day achieving anything, until I was in my late twenties, and a writer/therapist heard a few poems that I had written. Then I had a burning passion to write. I wrote poetry all the time. I organized and ran a reading out of an old theater turned coffee shop. I started my own literary magazine (when computers were starting to become common in homes), and I published in several journals. That dream, the only one I have had in my life, came to a halt when I was diagnosed bipolar after my first psychotic episode. I simply couldn’t read or write on the medication. It was impossible.
It has been nearly a quarter of a century since I was first diagnosed with a mental illness.
I am writing again.
Yesterday, I posted three places that published my essays. Last week, I had two publications ask me to write an article/essay for them. I spend a good deal of my time with tears in my eyes.
As a young woman I had a dream, one dream. I dared to dream one single dream, and I had that ripped from my life in what felt like an instant. I never stopped mourning the loss, the hope, the passion.
I am reluctant to grab ahold with everything I have to my writing. I am afraid it will be taken again, or that the interest in publishing my work won’t last. Although I am reluctant to give everything over to my writing, to really let loose and turn everything over to a dream, my successes are pulling at me.
I sit most days at my computer and have a good cry; the thing I mourned for nearly half of my life is at the center again.
I am almost ready to write the truth of it out here and now. Those words, the painful, joyous, life-giving, life-altering words: I have a dream. I have a dream to write.
So, for those of you who wonder about the heart and mind of someone who has paranoid schizophrenia, locked inside that complicated brain that behaves in an unusual manner, tucked deep inside the cavity of the chest, there may just be a treasure that is kept secret from the world, a hope, a dream, an unfilled passion.
Every day, here, I am excavating that treasure. I am sifting dirt and sand. I am searching for the gems and trying hard to polish them up for the world to see.
I have tears in my eyes. I have buried treasure. I have a dream. I have hope. I have paranoid schizophrenia, but that is not going to stop me again.