My husband and I went to several museums this past Monday. There was an exhibit (two videos) that an artist created to play with physical space and psychological space (I will write more about it on my Psych Central blog).
I tried to watch the video but after a couple of minutes my legs started to bounce up and down (a sign of increasing anxiety) and I started to wring my hands. After a few minutes of ever intense anxiety, I left the film.
I walked back out into the museum, and the docent was there. He looked at me questioningly. I said, “I couldn’t take that film. It made me so anxious.” Then I decided to do something I rarely do. In fact, I think I have only done it one other time. I said, “That kind of artwork is too much for me. I have schizophrenia.”
The docent didn’t flinch. He didn’t back away. He started talking about the film and said, “Did you watch the second film in the other room?”
“No,” I said.
I was distracted while he was talking to me because I kept thinking, “I can’t believe I just told him in casual conversation that I have schizophrenia, and he didn’t react at all. It was as if it was the most natural thing to say. No surprise. No confusion. No shock.”
The docent was telling me I should, at least, go back and see a little of the second film. I told him I would try. I went back down the hallway and sat in the second room of the art installation.
Both films dealt with voices. I know something about voices. I know about the type of voices that overtake my head, and I know about the type that helps me represent and express myself.
In the eleven months since I came out publicly with my diagnosis, I have found my voice in writing and speech. And each time it is heard or read with respect and dignity, I gain more strength, more power, more words, and more confidence to continue using it.
If all goes well, you’ll hear me at parties, business meetings, luncheons, and dinners talking about schizophrenia as if it were any other illness, and isn’t that the way it should be? I’m moving forward – one step, two steps, three steps. Soon I will be running, but we’ll hold hands so we can keep the pace of the change together. Let’s not leave anyone behind.