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Living With Schizophrenia Is a Roller Coaster Ride Without a Seat Belt

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I can still hear her screaming. Every night, I relive that scene in my dreams. Well, more like terrors. The fear is forever embedded in my mind. The loss, the pain, the grief. The death of my best friend. My best friend who never existed.

Living with schizophrenia never is, and never will be, easy. It is manageable at best. As with any mental illness, some battles are won and some are lost. If life is a roller coaster, having schizophrenia would be the equivalent of riding without a seatbelt. Hold on for dear life, fight to survive and never, ever let go. Ingenuity is an ally. Those who learn how to create their own seat belts are the ones who make it to the end. Sore? Sure. Tired? Definitely. Stronger and infinitely more badass than anybody else there? Absolutely.

It’s critical to remember and accept that nobody can survive that ride alone. Asking or allowing help is a strength, not a weakness. Not only does it take an incredible amount of courage to face your own issues, but it takes even more bravery to admit it to others.

When faced with the challenge of revealing any mental issue you may be struggling with, there are two extremely important rules to remember:

  1. You don’t owe anybody any apologies. Never be sorry for who you are or what you have.
  2. You are not your disorder. It does not define you and it is not who you are. It is simply something you have.

Unfortunately, once your secret is out, more difficulties arise. Some people are understanding (or at least they try to be), others… not so much. A lot of people are just plain assholes. Sadly, most people are uneducated or are misinformed about mental health in general. This can be frustrating for everybody. In my case, I’ve had several peers “jokingly” ask me to please not shoot up the school and to please not get mad and kill them. What many do not realize is that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims. There is no way someone who has never experienced a mental disorder could ever fathom the absolutely horrific hallucinations I’ve endured. Even Stephen King would be disturbed.

However, I must say, the most insulting comment would have to be: “There’s no way you’re schizophrenic. You don’t act like it.” Excuse me? What were you expecting? A typical Hollywood portrayal? Sorry I didn’t get Spielberg’s memo. Just because I have mental health problems does not mean I can’t be functional. Whoever said ignorance is bliss was never on the receiving end of it.

Yes, clearly there will be people who will rip your homemade seat belt to shreds with no mercy. There’s no use blaming, so don’t even try. Don’t waste valuable breath. Instead, keep your head up and your grip on reality firm. Some days, it will be so tempting to let go, but I beg you, don’t. If you do, it can sometimes be nearly impossible to find your way back again. You’ll orbit your mind and live in your fantasy. You’ll dwell in your depression and drown in your tears. So, hold on. Hold on for dear life because in this instance, your life actually depends on it.

Unsplash via Annie

Originally published: November 27, 2018
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