When People Are Surprised by My 'Rather Normal Life' With Mental Illness

I am not defined my mental illness.

I have been called “crazy” so many times I lost count. I have been called “psychotic,” “schizo,” “not right in the head,” having “a few screws loose” and “not all there.” None of these really bother me because in a way it’s true.

What really bothers me is when people are surprised I lead a rather normal life. It’s as if they think I can’t or that I’m incapable of living a successful life. I can’t stand the ignorance of some people.

Just because I have a mental illness does not mean I just sit around and am lazy all day, every day. I work. I drive. I help support a family. I have a loving wife and a beautiful daughter, who I raise with my wife. I may have deficits, but I can still function just fine in society.

Right now, I’m in school for automotive technology. As of right now, I have a 3.3 GPA. By the end of my studies, I will have my associate’s degree. It may not seem like a lot, but keep in mind, I barely graduated high school. I have always been a mechanical person. I like to see how things work. I like to take things apart and put them back together.

I went to school to be a heavy duty diesel mechanic and did that for awhile. I loved it, but it was hard to find a job in that field. A lot of guys in the field have years upon years of experience and get paid very well. They don’t want to leave that kind of job. For me, coming in straight out of school with little practical experience, it was hard to find work. So I switched over to cars.

That was the best thing for me. Turns out, I like cars more than the heavy duty side. I have found something I’m good at, finally, and it feels good. I have gone through so much of my life doing many things at just an acceptable level. I never found that one thing I was exceptional at.

Now, I have. I was meant to work on cars. It is one thing I know, without a doubt, that I excel at. Like I said before, I’m a mechanical person. So the work I do on cars is just the best fit for me. It may not be the best living. I may not have the best hours or working conditions, but that’s fine. If I can put in my eight to 12 hours a day and feel accomplished, then that’s fine for me.

I wish I would have found this out sooner. Instead, I wasted a good portion of my life searching for that one thing, and it was right under my nose the whole time. I have been obsessed with cars as far back as I can remember.

All in all, what I’m trying to say is that just because I have a mental illness does not mean I can’t lead a rewarding life. It does not define me. Just because I have schizoaffective disorder does not mean I can’t do my job. It does not mean that I can’t get or keep a job. It just means I have to try a little bit harder than everyone else, and that’s fine with me. I’m up for the challenge. Bring it on, I say.

I refuse to let this illness get the best of me. I will tell you that every single time. Don’t ever let anyone tell you just because you have a mental illness you can’t do something. Tell them you can do it, and do it well. Thank you for taking the time to read my stories,

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Schizoaffective Disorder

Black and white portrait of a serious man, side view

8 Things I've Learned From Having Schizoaffective Disorder

1. Survival. Having a severe and persistent mental illness and simply staying alive can be a challenge at times. Although I’m happily married and have a job I love as a social worker, I feel my greatest accomplishment has been staying alive when I first got sick. Anyone who has a mental illness is a [...]
Motion Blur Hospital Corridor

What Being in a Psych Ward Was Like as a Person With Schizoaffective Disorder

I gave them my cell phone. I surrendered my purse. I handed over the pen behind my ear. Made bare, I was scared. They put me in the “holding area” – their poor choice of words. I entered a room with steel gray walls, a plank to sleep on, a flaccid pillow, and a thin [...]
Profile view of focused intelligent bearded young man using his

To My Younger Self in Crisis With Schizoaffective Disorder

Dear Self, This is you at 38 telling you what you will happen to you after you are diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. This is my advice for you. Right now you’re 19, a freshman in college, in crisis, and can’t imagine having a future. You’re having severe depression, hallucinations, episodes of mania, suicidal thoughts. Things will [...]
Painting of mannequin,robotic style models interacting

Learning to Accept Love (From Myself) as a Girl With Schizophrenia

I was in the bathroom looking down at 10 different shades of purple eyeshadow thinking, “Sure, I have multiple mental illnesses, and I don’t have a stable job, but maybe if I’m pretty enough…” when Justin walked through our front door, home after hanging out with his friends. I desperately hoped I looked good enough to [...]