I have schizophrenia, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to be successful at climbing the mountains that are there before me. I currently have myself in training for a steep climb, and chances are I will make it, but even if I don’t, I’ll be in better shape in every way than I was before I set out on this path.
Last night, my husband texted me that he was leaving work at 5:30 and that he would be riding his bike home. When I received the text, I pulled out our backpack cooler and started preparing a picnic. I washed some grapes, made a container full of cut cantaloupe, cut up three different kinds of cheese, packed a sleeve of crackers, and put some of the hummus my husband made in a Tupperware and added two bottles of water. When my husband walked in the door, I was ready to go. He changed his clothes, and we walked the mile to the organ pavilion in the park near our house. We sat on the steps and enjoyed the music of a funk band that was playing.
All summer long, the park near our house has free summer concerts three days a week. As we sat there, tears rolled down my face, and I said to my husband, “I finally feel like I am living my best life.”
In the last year, I have committed myself to make my life better in every way possible. I don’t sit by when things are difficult or not going well and take it. Not taking it, includes the symptoms I have from schizophrenia as well as other things that come up in life, marriage, family, etc.
My psychiatrist has told me that he can change my medications, or add additional medicine to try and clear up the remaining symptoms of schizophrenia but in every case like that, a person has to weigh the pros and the cons. One of the hardest things to deal with more medication is, of course, side effects. I feel like managing my side effects from the drugs I am currently on is a full-time job, and I don’t want to add any more requirements, suggestions, restrictions to that. It is hard enough as it is.
So, I do the best I can to overcome symptoms when they arise or to avoid any triggers that will cause them. The symptoms that cause me the most problems are anxiety, lack of motivation, and a need for increased sleep. Most days the need for increased rest doesn’t create too much of a problem because I don’t have a job I need to be at or any place I am expected to be (if I do have an appointment then it can interfere, but that doesn’t happen too frequently).
The anxiety and lack of motivation can disrupt my life though, and I am finding ways to handle those symptoms that are lessening their occurrence and hopefully getting me strong enough to work. (My dream is to make a living freelance writing, but I haven’t been able to overcome my symptoms sufficient to put in the time and effort and hustle that writing full time (or even part-time) takes).
How am I managing my symptoms better than ever? I am practicing all kinds of psychological tips and tricks to help fool my brain. I keep a gratitude list (which helps with overall perspective -things could be far worse), helps lessen anxiety and helps me focus my mind on what is going right instead of what is going wrong. I read a passage or two from the Bible every day, and I write my response to it. Many of the passages I read are hopeful and give me a sense that I am not alone, and that something more significant than me is in control (this is very comforting and helps with anxiety as well).
To trick my brain into overcoming my severe lack of motivation, I write down tasks every day that I want to complete. I rarely have in the three months I have been doing this completed all the tasks on my list, but on average I am finishing two to four of the tasks I want, and that is way better than I used to do.
Before I started trying to improve my life and lessen my symptoms, I had many days where the only thing I did was watch television and scroll through social media. In the past, I went weeks without getting out of the house. Now, I put on my task list every day, take a twenty-five-minute walk, and for the most part, I do it! Of course, the walking helps with the side effects of the medication (high sugar levels, high cholesterol, weight gain, high blood pressure, etc.) as well as elevates mood and makes panic attacks (I think) less likely.
What do I think helped push me to try so hard to create a system that helps me overcome symptoms? Like most people, I didn’t want to throw my life away, and I want to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Watching television and reading social media post left me feeling frightened, anxious, depressed, and many other negative feelings. In other words, the news and social media were hurting my chances of living my best life.