Over the weekend I passed my six month anniversary of my first post on this blog.
Just before I started this blog, my husband and I posted an essay on Facebook telling all of our friends and family that I have a mental illness. It was a secret we kept from most people for almost twenty years.
Now that I have lived openly with paranoid schizophrenia for nearly seven months, I can say that the thing that has changed most is my own acceptance of myself. I no longer feel a sense of fear of being found out. I no longer have the sense of shame that there is something unacceptable or unlikeable or unlovable about me. I feel much more confident and comfortable just being me.
Because being out in the open about my illness is so new to me, I like to talk about it frequently. I have gone from complete silence and hiding, to openness and sharing.
My husband’s brother was here this weekend with this wife and I went out to dinner with them while my husband was at a fundraising dinner. I could not stop talking about what it is like to write about schizophrenia, being discriminated against by a writing organization, and details of my illness. This is all new information for them. They have known me over seventeen years, and just recently they had to add schizophrenia to what they know about me.
I’m not sure if I was in their shoes that I would be as graceful and accepting as they have been toward me. They never got mad at me for leaving them in the dark for so many years. They respected that it was a part of our personal life we decided to keep private. They have never said anything stereotypical to me about my illness or asked any questions. They have let me open up on my own terms. And they have welcomed me.
I know that many people with schizophrenia are hiding their illness like I did – living their fear and pain and shame with as few people in their inner circle as possible. I don’t want to say that everyone is accepting of a person with schizophrenia. I don’t want to say that everyone is educated about the illness or wants to be. I don’t want to say that everyone is tolerant or kind. But the majority of people are at least the ones who really matter.
If you open up about your illness you are bound to be hurt, but the integration and wholeness you feel can be well worth it – I am no longer sectioned and cornered off from people – people are allowed to see the whole me, all of me, the real me, my battles and my successes.
I wish we could all live openly as people with paranoid schizophrenia and trust that the world will receive us with open arms, but I know for some people that isn’t the case, if you want to live openly though, remember that my husband and I came out with the help of a psychiatrist – we didn’t attempt it alone.
Also, even though it’s a virtual relationship, you’ve got me. I’m right here, and I’ve got your back.