(If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I don’t feel sorry for myself. I frequently write about the beauty I find and see in life even though I battle with a severe mental illness. I don’t want people to think that my illness does not impact my life, though. It would not be accurate or truthful to say that living with schizophrenia is easy. For me, and many others, it is not. Yesterday I posted something that was 100% positive so I thought I would give a little glimpse into the struggles that some of us with schizophrenia go through as well. I am not complaining. This essay reveals another side to living with mental illness).
I’m not always sick or experiencing symptoms of my illness. There are hours, and when I am lucky, whole days, where my symptoms are not present and I am just an average woman going about my life. During these asymptomatic times, I simply don’t stand out.
Forty-one days ago my husband’s aunt was moved into hospice. We immediately drove to Los Angeles hoping to beat the march of death and tell her good-bye. We were able to be with her, and her immediate family for eleven hours in the hospital. I was able to share memories, comfort her daughters and enjoy the company of extended family during a difficult, sad, stressful and solemn time. I managed the whole day with calm, serenity, strength and grace. I was able to say good-bye to someone I cared about without worrying at all about schizophrenia.
A few days later, we went back to Los Angeles for my husband’s aunt’s funeral. When we walked into the chapel, anxiety overwhelmed me. I couldn’t sit still. I went downstairs to the bathroom. I walked back up and sat in a pew. I walked outside. I could not get comfortable. I told my husband I was struggling. After a half hour of him trying to help me overcome my symptoms, my husband said, “You need to take some more medication today.” I did so willingly because I knew that he was right.
My husband and I spent the ceremony in the car trying to relieve my symptoms. When it came time to move to the graveside for the burial, I tried to join the other people mourning. I walked downhill and stood near the casket. I couldn’t stay, though. After a few minutes, I made my way back to the car. I climbed into the back seat and tried to nap (usually a higher dose of my medication will put me to sleep for a while). Before I knew it, my husband was in the car, and we were on our way to having dinner with a large group of family and friends.
I thought sleeping would help and that my symptoms would be gone but they weren’t. I was hoping that some food would calm me down. At the restaurant, I ate as much as I could. I still felt shaky and anxious. My niece asked me to go shopping with her. We went shopping and stopped by Starbucks. By the time we returned, most people were saying their good-byes.
It wasn’t until we got in the car and started to drive home that my symptoms finally subsided. I said to my husband, who had been so helpful to me all day, “I am fine now.”
There are times when I can be the support that my loved ones need and there are times when I need their support to enable me to get through a day with schizophrenia. For me, the illness is unpredictable, and that means I have to accept my weaknesses when they are present and stand firm in my strength when I have a full supply.