The Mighty Logo

When You're Too Young to Understand Your Mental Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I cannot speak for anyone else, but for me, getting a diagnosis was almost a relief. Years of misdiagnoses, accusations of attention seeking and wondering “what’s wrong with me?” took its toll. The same goes for treating a physical illness. It is far easier to deal with something when you know exactly what you are dealing with. Going to therapies or taking medication for the wrong illness can just make the condition worse. I felt with the right diagnosis, I could finally get the help I needed, the right kind of help for me. Relief was just a small part of my feelings towards the situation. I also felt a truckload of other emotions — sadness, regret, confusion and anger to name a few.

Having a psychotic disorder has impacted every single part of my life in some way or another.

Although more children are now being diagnosed with and treated for schizophrenia, it is considered to be rare in childhood. When I was a kid, it was pretty much unheard of. Explaining that I hear voices in my head and live in a state of constant paranoia is hard enough as an adult, but as a child it was too much for me to even understand myself. So, I lived through a very dark and disturbing time alone in my childhood. Being so young, I was naïve to how serious my condition was. I genuinely believed I would become an adult and all my psychotic symptoms would somehow disappear.

Obviously that is not how things turned out.

I fought the symptoms with everything I had, but I was kidding myself. A mental health problem will never go away untreated, no matter how strong a person thinks they are. When I was on the cusp of my diagnosis in my early twenties, I remember asking the doctor if she could make me “normal” like all the other girls my age. I thought my life was over. I would never have the future I had imagined. There was not some magic wand that could “fix” everything, and the prospect of having a long-term, incurable illness felt like a punishment. I had already lived nearly my entire life with psychosis thinking there would be an end to it. Finding out that this was a permanent, irreversible thing is what got to me the most.

I wished it had come later in life. I wished to get a degree. I wished to be successful. I wished to go travelling. I wished for all the things I felt had been robbed from me. I wished my whole life away.

Now I look at my situation very differently. Everyone who is diagnosed with any kind of long-term illness, whether it be mental or physical, goes through a sort of grieving process for what might have been. I still have my moments, but I have learned there is no such thing as normal. Everyone has their own struggles and we all have our own individual purpose.

I eventually realized there is one thing schizophrenia cannot take away from me — who I am as a person. My illness does not define me. My own personality is far too important to be overshadowed. Wishing my life away only left me in an angry and miserable

I now appreciate all the good things in my life like my fiancé, my friends and my family.  I continue to experience psychotic symptoms every day, but having them for such a long time means I have actually gotten somewhat used to them.

For anyone who is struggling with a new diagnosis, please know that getting to a mind frame of acceptance takes time as does adapting. Be kind to yourself, have patience, go through the bad days, fight your symptoms, feel like giving up, recover, relapse, do whatever you have to do. It is all part of the journey towards rebuilding your life and finding yourself again.

None of us are defined by what has happened to us or anything we go through. How we chose to deal with the bad things life throws at us, is ultimately what matters. You can become a bitter person or become stronger from it. Choosing the latter has made me a much happier person.

Originally published: August 26, 2016
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