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How a Dead Car Battery Helped Me Stop Isolating With Schizophrenia

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Because of recent coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and my diagnosis of schizophrenia, I do not have a problem with self-isolation. There are many days when I have no social interaction at all except for calling my parents. Because of my schizophrenia, I tend to shy away from large social gatherings. Receiving news a close relative whom I enjoyed from my childhood had died from COVID-19 caused me to want to stay isolated even more. However, recently I learned a lesson about how much freedom can be found by venturing outside the boundaries I have created.

Recently, I was able to buy a brand-new car. Since my parents live about two hours away, having my own car allows me to be independent, which is important to me. My daily schedule is flexible, meaning there are some days I do not drive at all, however, I push myself to drive to do errands. A short time ago, I got in my new car to run a few errands. The engine would not start, and it appeared the car’s battery was dead. At first, I did not know what to do. I wondered if I had left the indoor lights on or something else had drained the battery.

I decided to call my dad for advice. He reminded me that with my new car, I had roadside assistance. I called a repair service, and someone came to check the battery. The mechanic told me to leave the engine running for a period of time. I decided to take the car to the dealership to find out why the battery died since it was a new car.

At the car dealership, I was told sometimes car batteries are fickle. They should be driven often to keep them charged. The solution was simple: I had not been driving my car enough to keep the battery charged.

The answer to my dead car battery gave me the understanding I must leave my apartment, my safe refuge. I could not live a sedentary lifestyle, I had to go out. So, despite COVID-19, and my isolating schizophrenia, I had to go outside and drive my car. Of course, I was afraid. What if I got into a car accident? What if I got stopped by the police? Those fears were real, however, my car demanded attention.

After dinner that night, I decided to go for a drive. I did not need to run errands, and I had no place in mind, but I knew I needed to get outside my apartment … both for my car battery and for myself.

I drove to a neighborhood where I used to live with my parents when I was a young adult. This was the house I was always leaving. I left that house to go to college. I left that house to join the Army. I also left that house in my 20s because I did not understand why anybody would want to live there. At that time, I had no deep sentimental feeling toward that house except that I viewed it as a place of middle-class conformity. I felt my friends and I were different, and I wanted to be anywhere else in the world except this suburban carbon copy of America. This was also the house where I remembered being taken away in handcuffs because I was a danger to myself and my parents.

Now, as I circled the driveway, my thoughts were different. I saw this as a safe neighborhood for children to play and ride bikes. A place for cookouts and family gatherings. The adults here were trying to make their work life and their family life a success. My dad had provided me with a good life and food on the table. My mom gave me love. I did not understand then, but I understood now. Perhaps my old self would not like my new self.

I left my old neighborhood, and for whatever reason, I did not go in the direction of my apartment, but I drove toward the city. It had been a long time since I felt this much freedom. I did not go anywhere in particular. I went to a drive-in restaurant and ordered a large cookies and cream milkshake. It was totally random. I usually watch what I eat, but on this day, I felt I deserved a big milkshake.

Because of the lesson I learned from my car battery, I am now planning more little trips around town. I am looking for more reasons to go out for drives. I am thinking on one of my next trips, I might even venture into the city to see some of the historical sights. I still have a tendency toward isolating myself because I have a mental illness, but my car battery has given me reason to step out of my usual life and look for small adventures.

Getty image by Kerkez

Originally published: January 26, 2021
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