I was diagnosed schizophrenic in 2006, it’s been almost seventeen years now that I’ve lived with this devil on my shoulder, and the verdict is, unfortunately, still out on whether or not I’ve fully recovered.
I still have days, weeks, months where I feel the brunt of my mental illness, but for all intents and purposes, I suppose I present normally to the outside world.
That is, if you met me today, would you be able to tell that I have schizophrenia? My loved ones say no but I still feel every odd slight, every weird little idiosyncrasy that hints at something majorly wrong behind the curtain.
That may be just anxiety rearing it’s ugly head but there are moments where the reality of my diagnosis is made keenly apparent to me.
I still struggle tremendously with paranoia, the notion that someone is watching me, dissecting every move and action I take to find something to hurt me or to use against me. I’ve said before that if there were Oscars for real life I’d win for best actor every year. Acting though, is not something that I like to do, especially for the benefit of any suspected character who has decided to act in bad faith. I want things to flow, I wanna be natural and easy but unless I trust you inherently, I’m not letting down my guard.
As you can imagine this has been a pretty big lynchpin when it comes to things like job interviews, dates, or even merely just making new friends. Sadly, If I don’t know you, chances are, that I’m terrified of you.
With all this said, it seems pretty clear that I’m not entirely recovered from my illness doesn’t it? That’s the standard I set for myself. I will be recovered when I can feel at ease around people I don’t know. It’s hard to say if that will ever truly happen.
I’ve often looked at my illness as a second life, removed from the life I had before I was diagnosed. Interestingly, I’ve equated the last sixteen years to being a second childhood, if that makes sense.
I was thrust out into the world after being told everything I thought I knew was fake and I feel as though I’ve had to rebuild my sense of being and my personhood from scratch, zip, zero. This being the sixteenth year I’ve had schizophrenia, I am now essentially a sixteen year old in the way I feel I’m interacting with the world.
I don’t really know how else to explain it other than a hard reset and a total and complete system reboot and rebuild.
Will I ever fully recover? That remains to be seen, but for now, I’ve got the things I need, and I’m comfortable with my life and the way it’s gone.
It seems strange, but I remain thankful that I was given this mental illness. It’s taught me some very, very valuable lessons. It’s given me a razor sharp self awareness and understanding of who I am as a person, and it’s forced me to give regular and rigorous introspection a major place in my life.
It has also taught me empathy, perhaps more so than I want. I understand that on a deep level, everyone is constantly evaluating and judging themselves and that everyone, regardless of circumstance, deserves respect and care.
So is recovery even fully possible? I don’t know, but I’m steadfast in improving myself in anyway I can as the years go by and honestly, normality is probably an illusion anyway.