I have to admit that there are times when I wish there were a ribbon campaign for mental illness that was so popular it showed up on t-shirts, water bottles, Facebook statuses, etc. I also have to admit that I get tired of the jokes, stereotypes, misinformation and derogatory language surrounding an illness I just happen to have.
It isn’t a comparison, though. It isn’t an “I have it worse than you scenario.” Disease is dis-ease and all of them suck. And all of them have certain challenges. High blood pressure equals medication, diet, and exercise. Cancer may mean surgery, chemotherapy, or a wide range of other treatments. Schizophrenia usually means medication and the possibility of many other symptoms that occur in the mind. Of course, all of us on medication are at risk for other serious health issues – the side effects of drugs.
My step grandmother died at one hundred and two years old and didn’t have any health complications until the very end of her life. Yes, people are that lucky (notice I didn’t say blessed because that sounds like God plays favorites).
My husband has an autoimmune disease, and I don’t think his journey is any easier than mine. He has to deal with painful symptoms that have no easy explanation, and he is at high risk if he comes down with common things like the flu or a chest cold. My husband’s illness causes me an incredible amount of concern and worry, as I am sure my illness causes him to feel the same way.
I would say that the biggest difference between a mental illness and a physical illness is that one happens in the brain and seems to have an impact on the whole being because it changes the person’s response to the world, although, this wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Many people with cancer or chronic pain suffer from depression and depression also causes a change in the person who is suffering and their response to the world.
I like to have a positive attitude. I feel the best when I have a positive attitude. I am sure that is true for everyone. I also know that the articles I write that are hopeful and upbeat are far more popular than the ones I write which address the tough stuff. No one wants to hear how hard it is to have schizophrenia or any other disease. People want to hear stories about how others have overcome, are accomplishing great things, and are upbeat until the day they die.
That just isn’t always the case with illness, though. There are bad days. There are days when having a positive attitude would be like trying to climb a mountain without any previous training – you probably won’t make it – your body isn’t in the condition to accomplish it. I’m not always in a place where a positive attitude is possible.
There are people with cancer who pass away at a young age. There are people with heart disease who also die young. A story of disease isn’t always a story of triumph.
I like to give people hope about schizophrenia. I feel like that is one of the main reasons I write, but to forget that there are many people with schizophrenia whose lives have been forever altered by the illness, and their abilities diminished, is only to show you a fraction of the truth about this disease.
Today, I am one of the lucky ones. That can change tomorrow, or the next day, or next year. But today, I am lucky. I hope for those who are not as lucky. I hold them up in my thoughts, in my writing, and in my advocacy.
Luck can’t be captured or harnessed, or given away. Hope can, though – it’s no simple thing either. Hope can be a life saver. I hope for those who suffer from any disease. I hope for those who battle their voices. I hope for all of us – on a good day, like today.