Those of us with a medical condition, know a thing or two about sacrifice.
Earlier in the year, I went to the ER twice and was diagnosed with diverticulitis. Diverticulitis is very painful, and although all the doctors I spoke with said that the old information about not eating seeds, or nuts no longer held up to current research, the same doctors told me that their patients who have diverticulitis all swear that what they eat matters. I decided to go with the findings of the people who suffer from the disease. So, over the past year, I have gone from someone who could eat anything and everything without thinking about it to someone who has to read the menu of every restaurant that I go to in advance to see if there is anything I can eat. My husband and I have always enjoyed eating out, but now, I would much prefer to stay home and eat my meals because it is easier than finding something at a restaurant that won’t cause me another infection.
I have had to give up most of the food I ate for comfort and enjoyment. All of my life, I have popped popcorn and ate it while watching television at night. I love popcorn. The same is true of bacon, and Italian sandwiches and many salads. Right now, I don’t eat anything with seeds, nuts, peels, corn, or anything that is difficult to digest.
What does eating have to do with schizophrenia? Well, besides the fact that medications can cause weight gain, and we need to watch how much we eat (even that doesn’t always keep weight gain away), it is the sacrifice, I am thinking about.
With schizophrenia, we give up a lot too. One of the most significant things we give up is the ability to rely on, trust, or count on our brain. When I was a young woman, I never thought my brain could betray me. The betrayal of my brain is something I live with every day now. I never know when anxiety, paranoia, or psychosis will visit me. The people who are lucky enough to have complete confidence in their brain, can’t imagine the fear, and discomfort of realizing their brain is unreliable.
Another thing people with schizophrenia give up is time and freedom. Most of us have to live around our appointments with doctors or therapists (generally both), and our schedule of taking medications. I have to take my medications with food, and my breakfast and dinner plans always revolve around what time I need to take my pills.
There are many other sacrifices that people might experience with schizophrenia, but they are more individual, meaning some of us experience them while others do not. Some of the things people with schizophrenia have to sacrifice are traveling easily, or things like social anxiety (which can cause the loss of friends and needed relationships. This is also true of isolating socially). Many of us have had to give up careers that gave us purpose, freedom, and financial independence. The list goes on.
I’m not asking anyone to feel sorry for me. I am just painting a picture of what most people with schizophrenia have to go through. When people are critical of those people who are non-compliant with medications, or non-compliant with treatment, maybe a little bit of compassion is necessary. It isn’t easy to change the way you live even though those changes are in the person’s best interest. Imagine giving up smoking and how hard that is. Having schizophrenia and making dozens of life changes is like that. I don’t often feel sorry for myself, but I do occasionally stand back and say, “Damn girl, this stuff ain’t easy!” And that acknowledgment of my sacrifices can help put me on a track of thanksgiving or at least acceptance when I can’t get as far as being thankful.