Living with schizophrenia

Sharing what my life has been like for the past few years

Schizophrenia. It’s a scary word. It’s one that’s gained a lot of stigma throughout the years. It’s associated with those “crazy people” you see on the streets or in mental institutions.

Or that’s what I thought at first, at least, until I had been diagnosed with it myself.

It’s a fairly terrifying reality to live in. You see connections between coincidental events. You associate different things with different people. Normally innocuous events take on meanings where none exists.

It’s overthinking to the maximum. It’s wondering why certain things exist, why they were placed there, what everything means.

It’s wondering what the point of trying is when everyone’s bound for the same destination in life.

It’s wondering who I am, dealing with my earlier symptoms of high-functioning (so-called invisible) borderline personality disorder, and trying to make sense of who I am and what I can achieve.

Schizophrenia can be a debilitating illness if left untreated.

Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to have the financial security to take medication and attend therapy as needed, but my struggles are different from others’. I need more reality checks than usual, and dreaming too big has left me feeling a certain kind of learned helplessness throughout time.

It’s so weird to desire normalcy as much as I do — to overcome my impulses to leave on random adventures to who knows where, befriend strangers, and lead a life that seems like something out of a movie.

I’m tempted to do bizarre things that others have never tried: hitchhiking throughout the country, driving to somewhere even GPS’s have a hard time tracking, disappearing and reinventing my life somewhere far away from those I love.

All of these impulses would lead to an unstable lifestyle, one marked by tough changes and transitions beyond any one person’s imagination.

Yet the most I can do is feed my overactive imagination with novels that tell stories of adventure, of action, of mystery, and more.

I see the world in so many possibilities and yet often forget that we live in a world of constraints, that while certain frontiers of the imagination seem limitless, we live in a world that has limited resources.

I’ve learned along the way that you cannot measure life by the amount of resources you consume.

I’ve learned that life doesn’t necessarily have to be glamorous to be beautiful.

I’ve learned that safety and security are feelings associated with home — and that home is wherever my family and my heart is.

I’ve learned that while I’m facing my own personal demons, others are facing their own as well, and we’re all in this together. No man is an island.

And I’ve learned that people are what make the world go ‘round. If it wasn’t for the help of all my friends and family, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

And where is that, exactly?

It’s home.

It’s eating three meals a day and showering regularly.

It’s having impromptu meals with friends and making food and baking together.

It’s doing the art I love through commissions and earning my own share of money in whatever way I can.

It’s doing what I love and loving what I do.

It’s learning every day that I don’t have to have my whole life figured out, that knowing now that life is full of unexpected surprises is kinda what makes life worth living.

It’s all of these things and more — and I’ve learned not to define myself by my delusions, to see past my mental illness and know that I have a strong, resilient spirit that can bounce back from adversity and hold hope even in the face of a (at times) terrifyingly, fun-house-mirrorlike distortion of reality.

So even though I happen to be the 1 out of 100 people suffering from schizophrenia, at least it’s made me more able to empathize with that rare 1% of the population, no matter what level of functioning they’re at.

Perhaps that is all I can do: empathize with others and seek to understand their problems.

And perhaps that shall have made all the difference.