In Mental Illness, A Strong Support System is Essential

When I was diagnosed with schizophrenia eight years ago it was like walking in a fog. I was lost in my delusions, I was confused about what was happening to me and I was trying to grapple with what exactly reality was.

My family was suffering too.

They had no background with mental illness and no frame of reference about what to expect with it.

I had asked for help a few times but they just thought my skewed thinking was a result of smoking marijuana and that once I stopped everything I would be fine. It didn’t click for them until after my first major episode when they took me to the hospital and I was finally diagnosed.

I don’t recall a whole lot from those first few months but I’m sure my parents were racking their brains for an answer about what to do with their son. It was even disclosed to me later on that my mom had sought anti-depressants because she was so concerned. Read More →

The Stages of Grief After a Mental Illness Diagnosis

In the ten years that I’ve lived with schizophrenia, I’ve seen good days and horrible days, I’ve had successes and I’ve had failures but nothing can compare to the despair I felt in the first few months and years of living with the illness.

They say there are five stages of grief when you lose a loved one. I can tell you from personal experience that those five stages also exist and are just as intense when you’re told you’re crazy.

Instead of losing someone you loved you’ve lost yourself or at least your conception of yourself.

First there’s denial, in my case I didn’t believe my diagnosis, I thought “they’re all playing a trick on me to make me think I’m crazy, it’s all a ruse” I thought the psychiatrists office was a set up and I was so reluctant to accept the diagnosis that I couldn’t even make it through a therapy session without storming out. Read More →

Learning to Live with a Diagnosis of Schizophrenia

I can remember when I got the news. It was 2006 after a period of almost two years of the irrational fear that people were making fun of me, which then elevated to agoraphobia and delusions that I was a prophet and that the TV and the radio were talking to me and sending me secret messages.

It all came to a head when I was unequivocally convinced that I was tasked with saving the world from it’s ills. I went on a cross country trip to the U.N. to spread a message of peace thinking it was my divine ordination. When I got home I was greeted with a mandatory seventy-two hour hold at the psych ward in the community hospital. That seventy-two hours turned into seven days and somewhere around the fifth day I was told I had a chronic incurable brain disorder called schizophrenia.

This was a condition that had to be managed, I was told, I would have to take powerful antipsychotic medication every day for the rest of my life and I had to accept that the things I thought were so real were just tricks my brain was playing on me. Read More →

How to Have Schizophrenia and Be Ok

Schizophrenia is a strange kind of fun. On the one hand your lapses into crippling paranoia and delusional thinking will give you the edge you need to be sharp and cutthroat in social and business interactions, after all if you think everybody’s out to get you, you don’t have to make friends which opens up a lot of room for focusing on your specific goals. On the other hand, these same lapses into crippling paranoia and delusional thinking will make you so lonely and fearful of the world around you that you won’t even want to interact and will therefore have endless amounts of free time as you sit huddled in the corner of your dark studio apartment with a loaded glock ready to strike at even the most subtle sound emanating from your neighbor’s apartment.

This article is of course satire and attempting to make light of a horrible situation the subject of which I’m allowed to joke about because I’ve had schizophrenia for eight years. In it, I’ll guide you through the steps of accepting your tragic fate and fighting to overcome it and one day having a semblance of functioning normally in society.

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Balancing Stability and Ambition

For years I’ve been balancing on a tightrope, swaying this way and that while I reach for bigger and better things on the one side, but am knocked down by increasing symptomatic concerns on the other.

That’s the way it is when you have a mental illness.

On the one hand you want to achieve, you want desperately to earn more money so you can get off government assistance, so you can move out of your section 8 apartment and so you can see a private psychiatrist but your illness doesn’t allow it.

For every step toward financial stability you make, you take one step into behavioral and emotional instability.

You want independence, but that independence comes at the price of forfeiting your mental stability.

This has been the one overarching struggle for me in my efforts to get better. Read More →

How to Separate Your Delusions from Reality

I’ve come upon a situation recently where it was hard to tell if something I thought was happening was actually happening or if it was just my mind piecing together little pieces of coincidence into some grand, almost terrifying delusion.

Namely, and this is putting it lightly, I was under the impression that someone was spying on me, that they had put a tracker on my car and that they could read everything I was doing on my computer because they had somehow maliciously put some kind of malware on it that I didn’t know about.

Suffice it to say I was under the impression that this stuff was happening for a night or two before I recognized that it all may have just been a function of my paranoia.

In these kinds of situations it’s extremely hard to separate your delusions from the reality of the situation and I know this all too well. Read More →

Whatever You’re Dealing With, Just Know, It’ll Pass

Throughout my ten years of living with schizophrenia there have been times of great stress and great paranoia. There have been times where I’ve been so overwhelmed by delusion that I couldn’t eat. There have been times where I’ve been so anxious and worried about interactions that I’ve forgotten to breathe.

In all honesty I’ve spent a good deal of time in a place so scary that I wouldn’t wish it on an enemy.

I know what it’s like to be so consumed in the moment by things that you lose your grasp on reality and every single time, without fail those moments have passed and I’ve come out the other side.

That’s the point I want to make here.

The simple fact of the matter is that whatever hardship you’re facing, whether it’s delusions or paranoia or voices or hallucinations, in every instance, those moments have passed. They always have and they always will.

I realize this is an extremely hard thing to remember in the heat of the moment when you feel like you can’t breathe but if you can just ease your shoulders a bit and give it time, whatever you’re dealing with will pass.

If I can make any guarantees in this crazy messed up world, that’s it. That this will pass.

This is applicable in lesser moments of stress as well. Maybe you’re facing stress from your job or you’re in a painful crush or relationship. In every instance with a little bit of time and a few deep breaths these moments, these hardships will pass.

There is nothing you won’t be able to get through if you just give it a little time and a little care.

Any moment you’re facing where things seem insurmountable has to break at some point sometimes you have to break it, sometimes it breaks naturally but in each and every case, with a little time whatever you’re up against will pass and you’ll find yourself on the other side of it saying, “That wasn’t so bad.”

If there’s any advice you’ve gleamed from my years of writing trying to help people who are struggling it’s that.

There is no obstacle in this world besides death that you won’t be able to get through.

That’s one of the major lessons mental illness has in store for you when you’re diagnosed and it’s the one piece of advice I give to anyone who’s looking for help. Just know that with time, it’ll pass and in a year whatever you’re facing right now won’t even matter.

It’ll pass, it always does it always will.

Again I know how hard it is to realize that in the moment of something trying whether it’s seemingly insurmountable or just inconvenient, just having that little dose of awareness though can help you get through whatever you’re dealing with.

I’ve been through my share of hardship and I wish that they had told me in the hospital that it will take time but you can always get better, there’s plenty of time and there’s no rush in anything and whatever is happening will have it’s day and then it will leave you alone.

That’s just the way life works. Just know that it’ll pass.

Disclosing Your Illness to New People

A funny thing happened the other night. I was out with friends and I was asked what I do for a living.

I told these new people that I write about mental health.

Naturally more questions came about my experience in the field and I jokingly said, “Yeah I’m crazy” my better friends and I laughed it off and while there was a moment of silence and a little awkwardness it felt much easier than disclosing a hard scary truth that I had been diagnosed with a major mental illness.

I’d be lying if I said I was a stranger to disclosing my illness to people I meet as it pretty much comes with the territory of what I do for a living.

Many times though, I’ve gotten way serious and vulnerable about it and people don’t really know how to react to it.

Joking about it is relatively new to me and though it’s still a bit awkward it can take a lot of the scary power away from it.

There have been times I’ve disclosed that I’ve gotten dirty looks or I’ve been asked whether I’ve killed anybody and to be honest the reactions don’t bother me anymore.

It’s always tough though to be honest with people. Especially people you’ve just met.

People can react in a lot of different ways to something of that magnitude and taking the sting out of it is a skill you have to hone and practice just like social interaction, or writing, or photography, or anything that requires grace and finesse.

The point of this all is to say that it doesn’t have to be as tough as it seems. If people pry there’s no harm in being honest and I’ve found that the people who are the least understanding are the people you don’t want in your life anyway.

There’s an old adage by Dr. Seuss that says that those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind and that’s been true in pretty much every interaction where my mental illness has come up as a topic of conversation.

Honesty is an incredible tool in dealing with the ins and outs of living with a mental illness. It can relieve you of the stress that’s building in your chest for a long time and it can cement incredibly strong friendships and relationships.

I’d be remiss not to mention the fact that a great deal of stigma still exists regarding mental illness but diffusing that stigma with jokes or crazy stories can move you past that initial point of weirdness.

If you still don’t feel fully comfortable disclosing just say that you have experience in the field. Or that you went to school for psychology (sure it’s the school of life and hard knocks, but you’re damn right you’re educated)

Overall, it doesn’t have to be a burden you carry with you that you have a mental illness. You don’t have to go around telling everyone, but again, those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Vulnerability is key in building relationships and friendships and those of us with a mental illness sometimes don’t have the choice of whether or not to be vulnerable.

The point is, if you don’t let your label weigh on you it won’t.

I’ve faced this situation more times than I can count and in every instance, honesty is the biggest most important thing you can do. If you can joke about it even better. You don’t have to tell the people you don’t want to tell either. Sometimes you have to be your own judge.

Either way, I’ve been there, so just know you’re no alone.

Good luck out there!

What to Do About Persistent Delusions

I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences this. I think most people with schizophrenia have that one delusion that they keep going back to that, no matter how hard they try to get rid of it, always sticks around. For me it’s the notion that people are making fun of me.

I don’t know why this is such a hang up for me as it really doesn’t matter either way but I’m constantly worried what people think of me and no matter how much therapy or how many antipsychotics I put into my body this delusion always remains.

It’s so persistent that there have been times I’ve succumbed to it and started to believe it as the truth. It’s caused me to be on my guard whenever any offshoot of the notion comes up and it’s caused me to be wary whenever I hear someone laughing or whenever I see someone whispering to their friend.

No matter what, I always think it’s about me and this is not a good thing. Read More →

How to Get Through a Moment of Paranoia

Throughout our lives we’re bombarded by moments and circumstances that can throw us off.

Whether it’s stress at work or paranoia, we’re all confronted from time to time by things have the potential to derail our progress in stability.

Having lived with schizophrenia for ten years there have been more times than I can count where, though it seems I’ve only been taking steps forward, I get thrown another curve ball and begin to fall into my pit again.

I only call it my pit because it’s become so familiar and as messed up as it sounds, there have been times where I’m more comfortable in the pit than I could ever be out of it. Read More →