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An Unexpected Outcome of My Struggle With Schizophrenia

“Shh! Be quiet, they are listening to us. Close the blinds and turn off the lights! They placed a tracking device in my car and now they know where I live.”

As one can imagine, the typical ramblings I uttered would be difficult for a loved one to experience. Those ramblings were the beginning of my journey in walking in the shadows of schizophrenia. At the age of 22, being newly married with my firstborn on his way, this illness could not have come at a worse time. But what was an unexpected consequence of starting a young family prior to dealing with a severe mental illness? Let me explain.

Starting a young family presents its own unique set of struggles and victories for people worldwide. I have heard it said that a two-fold cord is not easily broken in two. In addition, everyone starts off within a marriage with a blissful eye full of excitement for the future. Bringing a child into the world adds an even deeper dimension to the blooming relationship. But what happens when your loved one, your marriage partner experiences your storm of psychosis? What happens when the symptoms of schizophrenia rear their ugly heads time and time again, causing more and more confusion, pain and blame? After all, no one purposely becomes schizophrenic, thus intentionally causing difficulty to his or her family. So what happens then?

For me, it was divorce.

However the unexpected consequence of going through an emotionally charged divorce was something I would never substitute nor have been able to predict. This something, prepared me for my later travels down this journey of schizophrenia, and boy, would I need it. I’ll explain what that was shortly. First though, there are certain commonalities many of us experience with our condition. Denial (“I don’t have that condition”), medication compliance, (“I don’t need those medications”), self-medicating (“Alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, etc. calms my brain”) and great mistrust for mental health care workers early on (“They don’t know me or what they are talking about”). To navigate successfully through these commonalities, I found in my journey, the need for resilience.

That’s exactly what my unexpected consequence was at the end of that turbulent time. In order to “steady my ship” as it were, during my storm of dealing with schizophrenia, in order not to give up on myself and keep pushing forward, in order to take the leap in faith of trusting the mental health workers entrusted with my care, in order to stay on my medication even when I thought I did not need it and in order to stop self-medicating, I needed personal resilience. I once again knew what it felt like to get knocked down, so to speak, but only with resilience did I really learn what getting back up meant.

My take away from the experience of this life event is to “stay the course” in your journey with a mental illness. Meaning, keep pushing forward always and do not stop your forward movement permanently. You may slow down, get lost for a time or even get stuck for a bit in a rut. But by trusting in someone — whether it is your counselor, psychiatrist, parent, etc. — I believe you will be able to keep walking in your journey, sometimes bruised, with bloody feet and all. It is then, you may find yourself beginning to run in your course. I believe resilience will get you where you want and need to go.

If you are not the person with the mental illness in the relationship, try your hardest to stick with your loved one as a support system. However, do not feel guilty if you have to change your course and separate from your loved one, or at least change roles in their life. You may in actuality be giving them something they would not be able to receive if you were to stay in your current role in their life. You may allow them develop the most necessary quality for them to succeed: resilience.

Now that I am remarried to a wonderful wife with two additional children, I can honestly say, resilience resulted in my case in a resurrection to a real life of recovery and self-respect. What an awesome consequence.

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Thinkstock photo via Jupiterimages.