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It's Time I Stopped Letting My Illness Control My Life

I’ve been sick on and off for a few years now. I dealt with hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, depression, anxiety and intrusive thoughts. You name it. I have schizoaffective disorder, which is bipolar schizophrenia, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder. It sounds like a lot, but I’m a pretty normal person besides a few mood swings, panic attacks and some crying. You wouldn’t know from looking at me I have two of the most serious mental disorders someone can have. If there is a debate about whether schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is worse, well, I lucked out. I have both.

It wasn’t until I was hospitalized for a psychotic breakdown (severe hallucinations, delusions and self-harm) that I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. That was spring of 2015. It’s taken over a year for me to come to terms with my illnesses and find the right medication. I’ve been through individual counseling, group counseling, peer counseling, faith-based counseling, experimental emotional workshops, even career counseling (can’t keep a job). I was at the hospital a lot last year. I could talk about it forever. I feel like it’s all I do talk about and people are tired of it. It’s hard not to talk about something that was cloaked over my life like a dark cloud for years. It’s even therapeutic to talk about it, after hiding it for so long. But I’m tired of it. And I think everybody is else, too. It’s time for me to move on.

Because I’m better. We finally found the right medication. I’m engaged to a wonderful man, living on my own, and I’m healthy and happy. I still have trouble. I have social anxiety, so it’s hard to make friends. It’s been impossible (so far) to keep a job because of the stressful work environments associated with jobs people my age usually can get, like in retail or in the restaurant business. I’ve had eight jobs in the past two years. I was either fired or quit. I was disappointed in myself for a long time. I’m too sensitive, too anxious, too intense. I take things too seriously. I have trouble taking criticism, even if it’s meant well. I have low self-esteem. I don’t really know who I am. I’m a disaster. Who would want to hire me? I thought. But the thing is, I’m really just like every other young adult now that my symptoms are being properly managed. I can’t blame the mistakes I make or the chances I don’t take on my illness anymore. Because I’m better. And that’s a good thing. It’s a scary thing not to have that crutch anymore, but it’s good. I need to stop making excuses for myself.

And sure, maybe I’m a little different from your average girl. My mind works a differently. Sometimes I think my boyfriend is made of plastic, so I have to touch his face until I’m convinced he’s real. Sometimes I think I have my own TV show, and I make faces into the invisible camera. Sometimes I think potatoes are rats, and I freak out, hiding the potatoes so they can’t hurt me. It’s weird, and I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who talks me through it. I’m lucky he’s not scared of me or laughs at me because I’m a little eccentric. Ultimately though, those are mostly harmless delusions that pass with time. And they’ve been happening less and less. So, it’s time to give myself a break. I need to stop hating myself for being different. And I need to stop blaming everything on my illness.

And OK, I’m not this bubbly, outgoing girl that employers want, as much as I wish I was. I’m just not. And that’s OK. I don’t need to blame my introverted personality on my illness. And it’s OK that I don’t have a job right now. I’m contributing to society through my relationships with friends and family, as a consumer and a creator. I cook. I write. I do crafts. I exercise. I hang out with friends. I’m putting myself out into the universe in my own unique way, and the universe is responding with friends and opportunities and acknowledgement. I mean, yeah, I don’t have a job, but so what? I’m young. I don’t need to take myself, my life or my writing too seriously. This is my hobby. Why don’t I give myself a pat on the back for even keeping up with my writing, instead of beating myself up for not having a million followers. I just started! I just started my blog. I just started this life, a life where I’m no longer tied down by depression, anxiety or paranoia like I was for so many years. I’m so young. Why do I compare myself to people who are middle-aged with careers and families? I’m sure they were just as lost as I am when they were 21.

My illness is no longer controlling my life. I don’t have a stressful job. And I can’t afford to go to school right now. I was pretty bummed about all this free time I have, but maybe it’s a good thing. For one, it leaves me with few things to worry about. And why is it such a bad thing for me to just live my life?  I was dealt a blank card. I can do anything I want right now. Money isn’t an issue. I’m not a mother. I’m not even a wife yet. I’m just August. I can finally be just August, instead of the sad, angry girl who can’t see past her illness. 

I’m better. I’m better. I’m better.

I’m better now. So just chill out, inner voice. I don’t need to rush into anything. I don’t need to decide who I am right here, right now. I can just watch TV, and write, and cook new things, and figure out who I want to be. I have been given the chance to live without my illness being in the forefront of my life. It is my sole responsibility to live my life to the fullest, and to be happy. So, it’s time I stop with the excuses. I am in charge of my own happiness. I am in control of my life. I am well, finally. So why not just enjoy it?

I think I will.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.