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5 Ways Having Schizophrenia Has Made Me a Better Person

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Don’t get me wrong — I wish there was a cure for schizophrenia so people could say goodbye to this often debilitating and life-threatening illness. I try hard not to romanticize mental illness in any way, but I also want people to know the consequences of having a severe mental illness have not been all negative.

Here are five ways that living with schizophrenia has made me a better person:

1. Having schizophrenia increased my compassion and empathy.

I care about everyone who suffers from schizophrenia, not just me. I think about the homeless and the people in prison, and the people who are medication-resistant. I think of all those people who may have it worse than me, and I try to advocate for them. I write about their struggles and try to get others to pay attention. I frequently write to my representative in Congress. I not only care about people with schizophrenia, I care about all people who have, or have had to suffer. I know what it’s like to suffer and can sympathize with people who have lived through trauma or are dealing with a chronic or mental illness.

2. I don’t take anything for granted.

Two strangers rescued me from two suicide attempts. My illness nearly killed me. I feel lucky to be alive. Knowing that I came so close to losing my life gives me a different perspective on almost everything that happens to me. I feel like every day is a gift that I almost didn’t get to experience. This knowledge makes being grateful and thankful almost second nature.

3. I work hard at relationships.

I know there are times when dealing with my illness is difficult for the people who are closest to me. When I’m stable, I make every effort to be there (in any way possible) for the people who have supported me, because I know their care has contributed to my treatment. I actively appreciate friends and family.

4. I am stronger.

Life has its ups and downs, disappointments and tragedies for those of us who have schizophrenia and those of us who don’t. Dealing with a severe mental illness has made me better at dealing with the tough stuff that comes up in life.

5. I am full of hope.

I have spent up to six months in an active state of psychosis. My prognosis was bleak. I recovered from that long-lasting episode and went on to start a new career, make friends and enjoy life again. When the unlikely happens to you, you tend to believe that it can happen to anyone.

I would be the first to get in line if there was a way to cure schizophrenia, but since that day hasn’t come yet, right now you’ll find me looking for something worth keeping in a pile of mud. And there is something worth keeping — it’s me and all the ways I’ve grown from having to live with a severe mental illness. It has knocked me out and knocked me down, but I keep getting up better than the last time. Schizophrenia is not going to win. I’ve got some awesome tools and can put up a good fight.

All rights reserved. A version of this article originally appeared on as “5 Ways Schizophrenia Made Me a Better Person.” Reprinted here with permission.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally published: February 5, 2016
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