My husband and I are planning a vacation. We are going to a beach town on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. If you look up the Sea of Cortez, you will discover it is rich in marine life; there are good places for hiking, bird watching, fishing, snorkeling, great conditions for boating or kayaking, and of course miles of beaches to walk. Not all of you, but many of you would enjoy a vacation like the one we are planning. A bonus is that compared to the same type of vacation in many countries, Mexico is relatively inexpensive. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?
Why then am I so overwhelmed with anxiety? That is the thing about having my particular brain disease or mental illness, or however, you choose to describe it. Nothing is easy. For most people, planning a vacation is fun, exciting, and the trip is either relaxing, educational, cultural, or a combination of many things (like a foodie trip or environmental tourism). For me, the thought of leaving my routine and being far from my doctors, and from my pharmacy cause me tremendous amounts of stress.
When I was a teenager, I traveled to New York, London, Rio De Janeiro, Cairo, and many other countries and cities by myself. I wasn’t anxious. I wasn’t afraid. I was up for anything although my first love was clothes shopping (I loved buying clothes that no one I knew at home was going to have or be able to get. Being original was very important to me). The fact is even well into my thirties; I could travel by myself without fear or anxiety.
If it were just travel that made my life more difficult than many people, I wouldn’t think that was too big of an inconvenience because we only travel about five times a year give or take a couple of times. But everything with schizophrenia is harder. It is harder to write; it is harder to go to a party, it is harder to go to the doctor (my pulse soars to 150 or above every time I enter any kind of doctor’s office).
I don’t feel sorry for myself, but when I am honest, the truth is, I am a little more tired than most people I know. When daily living takes so much effort, it can be exhausting. I know that I am more fortunate than millions of people, I practice thanksgiving and gratitude every single day, but to act as if my life is perfect all of the time and that schizophrenia isn’t a significant life challenge that would be a lie.
I have preached, written about, and tried for years to get everyone to see me as a whole person, a person with many identities, roles, relationships, skills, and talents. If somewhere in all that convincing I ever made people believe that schizophrenia is a small part of who I am and doesn’t impact me in every corner and crevice of my life, I have misled you.
Schizophrenia is the dog, and I am the leash. I have some control over where it goes, and what it can do but as a powerful animal, it can always break free if I’m not careful and maybe even if I am. It’s a beast and a burden, and you have to walk it, care for it, and pay attention to it twenty-four hours a day because unlike a dog, it doesn’t sleep.