Archive for people

Why Kindness Matters

The last few months have been hard for me. I’ve had some issues with depression and paranoia. Living with schizophrenia is a rollercoaster and even little blips can turn into crises.

This depression though, has had me feeling a deep sense of loneliness, the paranoia makes me feel ostracized from the world and it’s really hard to feel like no matter where you go, you’ll never fit in.

This was weighing on me the other day until something happened that struck me and it put a long overdue smile on my face that was sorely needed.

It wasn’t anything big, it was just some minor little show of gratitude that reinforced the idea to me that people can be kind to each other.

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It’s Ok If You Have Anxiety

Anxiety is a fickle beast, it can come on at any point during your day and completely wreck you until you’re able to find a place to unwind.

A major point of contention in my struggle with mental illness has been the anxiety I feel in social situations.

It goes like this, you’re about to enter a new situation and deal with people who don’t know you and you wonder, what are they going to think of me? Read More →

Anxiety Can Protect Us

In life there are some things that are good for us and some things that aren’t. Many times though, the things that we think are doing us harm actually have a component of good. This is true for things like relationships that although were not healthy while we were engaged, taught us great life lessons weeks, months or years down the road. The same can be said for anxiety.

Anxiety was best described to me as the point when your fight or flight response is triggered by something that should be completely innocuous. It can be brought on by social interaction, peer pressure, perceived slights or even things as seemingly harmless as stepping on a crack in the sidewalk or not doing the precise number of actions or the precise order of actions before something happens. Anxiety is the result of compounding worry that’s sparked when we feel we’re losing control and many times it can be debilitating enough to interfere with our happiness. Read More →

You Can’t Make Other People Happy

The one singular overarching experience of living with schizophrenia for me has been the ebbing and flowing of the paranoia that I feel on a daily basis. This paranoia is a worry and an anxiety that people are constantly making fun of me.

To say the least it’s been a rough road. There are times when I want so badly to connect with people but I’m terrified that they’re going to turn around and make fun of the way I look or the way I move or the way I talk that I have all but resigned myself to the delusion as a fact of life.

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Schizophrenia and Dating, One Example

It started innocently enough. I got there at 4:21, we had joked about being old and eating dinner at 4:30 so I proposed, at the very least, beers. She was a kindergarten teacher and it was a Monday afternoon, Presidents day. A day when she’d be off work. I sat down at a table in the corner and ordered a hoppy beer called ‘Conniption’ from a waitress that seemed to young to be serving beer, she had a sweet smile that I thought could be trouble once my date arrived. All I knew of the girl was that she was into live music, enjoyed beer and had a bit of a bite to her. I had said that I’d be free in a couple of weeks and she came back with a proposal for Monday, I said “I guess that would work” and she immediately shot back “You guess?!, I’m flexible.” It’s hard to convey that kind of bite via text message but she had done it and me being the cautious calm man I am, I backed down immediately and agreed to Monday afternoon. This already felt like dangerous footing. For some reason the fact that she would retort like that spoke to an ironic craziness or at the very least a dangerously inflated ego.

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Facing Stigma as a Person with Schizophrenia

I was diagnosed with schizophrenia ten years ago. In that time, I’ve been able to stabilize mostly and regain a sense of self that was all but lost in the first few years I was sick.

As a writer, the next challenge is always, “What should I write about?” and to say the least, schizophrenia has given me so much to put on the page.

There are so many different challenges and facets that someone with schizophrenia experiences that to cover everything I’d have to fill a library.

I won’t lie that the illness is also a blessing though, writing about my experiences has gotten me bylines in some of the most prestigious publications out there and it’s provided a basis for self sufficiency. 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 →

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!

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How to Stop Fighting Your Illness

For years after my diagnosis I fought constantly against the the paranoia and the delusions my mind was supplying. It was churning them out at a feverish pace and it everything I could do to fight them tooth and nail.

As you can imagine, this left very little mental energy for me to actually live my life. I was constantly in fear of leaving my house, talking to other people or even just buying milk at the grocery store. It was a battle for me not to be completely consumed by every strange thought that I had, every notion that someone was doing or saying something that in reality they probably weren’t.

I was blinded and delirious from my paranoia and delusions for a long time until something happened. In a therapy session with a therapist that I saw for all of four times she told me to just accept it. This didn’t sink in until a few months down the line when I was no longer seeing her because I thought that she was judging me and conspiring against me. Read More →