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No one calls you brave for getting out of bed in the morning (or maybe they do if you are living with a chronic illness). When I get out of bed in the morning it isn’t an act of courage or bravery either (usually, I have to go pee). Please stop telling me that I am brave because I do the things that everyone else does. Yes, I have a severe mental illness, but having a mental illness doesn’t automatically make you brave.

For me, there is nothing brave about it. I have symptoms. I take medication to make those symptoms go away. If the medication doesn’t work, I try other techniques that often involve the help of my husband – talking, playing a game, any form of distraction to reduce anxiety, paranoia, or whatever else I am experiencing. I am often reduced to tears and there is nothing brave about it. It is survival. It is the desire to be comfortable and nothing more.

I guess you could consider it brave because I keep trying, but honestly, when you look at it that way, what choice do I have? Can I really give up? To give up means to cease living and I don’t want that day to come before I am say 85-90 years old.  I’m telling you it isn’t brave – there are bad days, and there are good days. I assume you have those too. Yes, life probably holds some different challenges for me than it does for many of you, but who is to say they are any more difficult than the challenges you face?

I live with one of the most severe of the mental illnesses, paranoid schizophrenia, but just because it is difficult to spell, that doesn’t make it an act of bravery to live with it. Paranoid schizophrenia is probably the most misunderstood and stigmatized of the mental illnesses. I have read articles by parents that said having their child diagnosed with schizophrenia was “every parents’ worst nightmare.” Well, it isn’t my parents’ worst nightmare. I am alive and physically I am relatively healthy – those two things are not the stuff of nightmares.  A diagnosis of a terminal illness for one of their kids, now that would be a nightmare; suicide would be a nightmare.

Even though my illness is severe, and heavily stigmatized, it is still not an act of bravery to have the diagnosis. Now, if I pull someone out of a burning building, or risk my life to save someone, then you can call me brave and I will accept that word gladly, but until then, I am just an average woman doing the best I can with this sometimes difficult but beautiful life. I imagine you are doing the same and it is possible that someday we will all be called brave and our actions will truly measure up to the word.