Last night my husband and I were talking about the progression of my schizophrenia. When we lived in a suburb of Los Angeles, I went eight years without an episode. During that time, I worked full time at a university library and as a marketing coordinator for an architectural firm. I networked all the time and sat on boards for the city council. We traveled frequently, I met friends almost daily for exercise dates, and we had a very active social life. After we moved, I had a psychotic episode that lasted over six months. I have not fully recovered my level of functioning since that episode of psychosis.
Today, I have a hard time traveling (we used to go to Paris, traveled to Dubai, etc.) on an almost yearly basis. Now, I can barely go two hours from home without major preparation (I do travel to writing conferences in other states, but it is difficult and draining, but I feel it is necessary). Besides the difficulties of travel, I am more fearful and less social. I used to have a wide network of friends that I did all kinds of activities with, and that is no longer the case. I have a small group of friends now, and we get together a couple of times a month for brunch, a birthday, a baby shower, a happy hour (even though I don’t drink), or something like that. I can go days without seeing anyone but my husband and without leaving the house.
I have a lack of motivation for social interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I love people, but I just don’t have the drive and energy it takes to make “dates” happen. (I will say, I am starting to have more and more Skype appointments with writers who need support throughout the week, and I enjoy meeting on the computer and talking with people).
It’s the level of anxiousness and fear that I have now that has most impacted my life since that last big episode of psychosis. I am afraid of everything. I almost always think the worst. If my husband is late and hasn’t texted, I think he was hit by a car, or something equally as bad has happened. If I have a stomach ache (which I frequently do), I am afraid that my diverticulitis is infected again and that I will have to go to the emergency room. This fear is my life and invades my days, and I want to do something about it.
I try positive thinking and gratitude lists, and all the obvious things and they work, they do, but my fear is still crowding out positive life experiences. So, I am going to try and experiment. I am going to do something that I am extremely afraid of (heights), and see if I can put some confidence and sense of accomplishment back in my life. In short, I am going to see if I can overcome some of my anxiousness and fear.
What am I going to do? I am going to try rock climbing. No, I’m not going to attempt the face of some jutting rock formation in Yosemite, I am going to go and have two lessons at a rock climbing wall. I know, it sounds simple, and it sounds easy, but for me, being even two feet above the ground will be terrifying. I think the climbing wall will work every muscle in my body and will make me tired physically, and that will be great for sleeping and relaxing. If I am successful, I am sure that it will build my self-confidence, and if I like it, and decide to continue, it will build my body strength which will also help with the side effects of my medication (weight gain, high cholesterol, high sugar, etc.). There is so much to gain, and nothing to lose but fear and anxiety.
Climb on my friends, climb on!