The Mighty Logo

To the Person I Pushed Out of My Life After My Schizophrenia Diagnosis

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

You were one of the only people who I felt truly understood me in my teen years. I felt I could confide in you, complete with a secret social media account where I could lay out my pain in handfuls of words for you alone. I know we irritated each other sometimes, but you offered a support and safety I desperately needed when depression was pulling the life from my chest.

I remember refusing to tell you the details of my elaborate plan to run away, but you said no matter where I went, you would follow. Those three or more hour phone calls in the middle of summer days meant more to me than you will probably ever know. Sitting on a table in an empty park, I would dance around the words I wanted to use, but you already knew about the self-harm and suicidal thoughts. I know that’s why you never missed my calls. Through my volatile moods and countless tests of your allegiance to me, you never left my side.

Until I forced you away.

My schizophrenia diagnosis took my feet out from under me with one swift and powerful kick. I lost track of who I was and what I wanted almost immediately. I begged my parents to remain with lips sealed, and carefully selected who would receive this information. The shame was dripping off of me. Who would want to be close to me now? How could I expect anyone to stay? My shaking hands typed out the text. I needed to tell you something whenever we could find a chance to meet.

You drove 45 minutes to see me just a couple hours later. As we sat on that bench, me staring at the ground ahead of me, I could tell you had no intention of ever leaving my life. Hesitantly, the words slipped from my lips.

“I have schizophrenia.”

I was upset with your response, but not because it was negative. You were so relieved that it wasn’t something worse. You thought I was going to tell you I hooked back up with my ex-boyfriend and I was pregnant. But no, it was just schizophrenia.

I was irate. How could you not see this was life-changing? How could you not see my life was over and I was fundamentally different? That I was a lost cause? How dare you act like things could be worse. I don’t remember how we parted, but I wish it hadn’t been the last time.

Well, it wasn’t really the last time I ever saw you, but I was cold now. I know you didn’t understand, but I didn’t care. I was committed to the white hot anger. I’m not really sure what I wanted you to say. I have no idea what response to my confession would have made me feel secure. But I had given up on myself and I wasn’t ready for someone to believe in me without a second thought. Your lack of concern crawled under my skin like the bugs I hallucinated. You were the first to think positively and believe that my life was, without a doubt, far from over.

But ultimately, you were right. My life wasn’t over. Schizophrenia stripped me down, but I built myself back up. I wish I had you there to boost me up as I climbed, and to lean on when I found myself back on the ground. I found other cheerleaders and supporters who still mean so much to me. But I wish you had been among them.

I know it was my fault. I ignored your texts and emails. I let the phone ring until it stopped. And, in person, I was polite, but so far removed. My heart cracked a little more every time I pushed you away, the fissures growing ever deeper, but I didn’t know what I was doing. It doesn’t make what I did right, but I was so lost in shame and stigma and outright fear of schizophrenia that your shining hopefulness blinded me and my instinct was to scratch it from my eyes. And even when I realized how desperately I wanted you on my side, I couldn’t stop. Floundering under the symptoms, I just pushed and pushed and pushed. I felt so out of control and I wasn’t ready to admit I was wrong.

The occasional messages I receive on social media bring me both joy and sadness. I cling to them as a sign you haven’t forgotten me, that I still matter and our relationship has not been replaced. But my heart breaks because I know it didn’t have to be like this. There may be physical distance between us, but we could still have been close friends. And there is no one to blame but myself.

I hope you are proud of me and the things that I am doing despite my schizophrenia. I hope you were silently cheering me on the whole time, hiding in the background, but always there. And I hope you know I never forgot about you and I regret pushing you away every day. Not just because I think learning to tackle schizophrenia would have been easier with you in my life, but also because I hate how much I hurt you.

In case you haven’t noticed, every picture you post will always earn a heart from me. I hope you know I am happy for you and the life you lead, even if I’m no longer a major character in its plot. And I hope you continue to look boldly to the bright side. That helped me get through the darkest times with schizophrenia, and I know I learned it from you.

Follow Katie’s journey on her blog, Not Like the Others.

Getty image by AntonioGuillem

Originally published: November 17, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home