How Accepting Myself With Schizophrenia Has Helped Me Speak Up and Shatter My Shame
I grew up in a middle-class home. My father was a college professor, and my mother stayed at home with my sister and me and had a medical transcription business. We went to church every Sunday, and I attended two different private schools. I did very well in school. I even had a book contract at the age of 15.
However, during my teen years, I started struggling with intrusive thoughts, depression, anxiety, and paranoia. I slept in my closet. I threw things away from my bedroom. Then I self-harmed and attempted suicide, after which I was hospitalized. When I was in the hospital, I learned something: I had always been too hard on myself. I still am to a major degree.
There was this man named Reggie who worked on the teen unit. One afternoon after a group, he had me walk to the mirror in my room. He said, “Rebecca, I want you to stand here and say three nice things about yourself.” I hesitated but muttered three nice things. I will always remember that moment because I learned other people liked me — sometimes more than I liked myself.
I was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 18, but there is a lot of shame surrounding it. I can relate a little bit to Paris Hilton and the recent news about residential group homes because of the shame I have clung to in all these years of keeping secrets about my illness. I was never in a residential group home for teens, but some hard experiences in a psychiatric hospital and my difficulty with opening up about having a psychiatric disability have kept me hidden in the shadows of shame and secrecy.
Well, these days, I am learning to speak up and shine a light on the shame and secrecy of mental illness. I was in a national documentary, I was published in a magazine, and I want to share my story. I am not a “coward,” and I am not a “horrible person” like I once believed. I have worth, I have hopes, and I have dreams. I will never, ever give up on myself.
Getty image by Tassii.