We have to be complicated and complex enough to hold two extremes in our hearts and our minds.
I try very hard to present as someone with schizophrenia who blends into a crowd. I am someone who is college educated, married, has been both poor and middle class, struggles with health issues, and looking for work. I am someone who is happy, gets angry, envious, tired, anxious, etc. like almost everyone else.
That is the point; I try to show the world how much I am like the average woman at the grocery store, or gas station, or restaurant. I want this image of people with schizophrenia to be more common in our books, movies and everywhere in our lives, but the truth is, there are other sides to schizophrenia that exist as well, and we can’t overlook them or pretend that they are simply stereotypes.
Some people are suffering from hallucinations who can’t take care of their basic needs and who end up on the street. There are others who commit petty crimes and go from prison to street, prison to the street in an endless cycle. There are also people who have support or family that help them get into treatment or residential facilities, but who suffer too much from symptoms to live on their own. And there are those, the ones I hate to admit have the same illness I do, who are violent or dangerous.
Somehow in our advocacy, we must embrace, or address, all these different manifestations of the same illness because to not do so is either seeing schizophrenia through rose-colored glasses or seeing it as the stereotypes the media portrays.
We need more people speaking out and showing us their average lives because we have lived too long with the opposite of that reality, but it is important when we write letters and vote on election day not to forget those who are in different circumstances than us. Those people who refuse medication or who medication doesn’t completely eradicate symptoms.
The only way I know how to be an advocate for all of us is to continue to remember that I am not a spokesperson for everyone with the disease. It is different for everyone, and to remember to talk about those who are still overcome by symptoms, or lack of treatment, or poverty, or medication resistance.
The best I can do is write not only about myself but those on the streets and in prison and in other situations so that people don’t get the impression that schizophrenia is not an issue that needs further study, funding, programs, and legislation.
Oh, how cliché the truth – it’s complicated.