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“If you didn’t have arms and you were able to put your shoes on every morning, but it took you twenty minutes, everyone would say, “How amazing that you were able to get your shoes on.” I see your challenges the same way. Every day you have a battle to fight, and when you show up somewhere no one notices all you had to go through to get there, because they can’t see your illness. No one sees how hard you work to do what others take for granted. You always show up having put your shoes on and it goes unnoticed.”

That was my husband’s pep talk to me, after I went to a writing conference that I was supposed to be at from 9 to 9. I knew I would never make it twelve hours so I prepared myself for 9-5. After walking through a small book fair for twenty minutes, and sitting in the lounge for another fifteen, I went to my first panel. I made it ten minutes and then I called my husband and asked him to drive back to the conference center to pick me up.

When my husband arrived, I felt defeated. I couldn’t do what everyone else was doing. I had become too anxious to make it through the first panel. There was no hope of making it through several more. I cried in the car.

I took an extra anxiety pill and went to sleep for an hour and a half. I woke up, ate some lunch with my husband, and asked him to drive me back. He didn’t even ask me if I was sure I wanted to go. He knew I wanted to try again. I went back and saw the two panels that I most wanted to see, and stayed and talked to a woman at the open reception while waiting for my husband to come back and pick me up.

I didn’t make it from 9-5, but I made it from 2-6:00. That was the best I could do for that day. There are times when I cry out of frustration about all the things I am unable to do. I want to be stronger, braver, more courageous. I want to be made of steel, but I’m not. I have limits, and I can’t measure them against the limits of others, because we aren’t starting at the same place. I’ve said it before, I have a long way to go just to get to the start line to begin the race, and according to my husband, while everyone else has started to run, I am still tying my shoes.

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For more writing about schizophrenia as an invisible illness and why that is mostly a good thing, see my blog on Psych Central today.