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Why Taking Pictures of Everything Helps Me Cope With Schizophrenia

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I remember when I was first diagnosed about 9 years ago. I had so many questions, worries, and misunderstandings. I had been hospitalized a couple times before being diagnosed with schizophrenia and I was embarrassed. I was angry and ashamed that I had put my family through so much trouble and they had to deal with all the problems I created. I began doing research and tried to find more people like me. Soon, I began to open up to my friends about what was going on. Most of them were OK with everything and treated me how they always had. A couple were different stories.

I remember two people in particular who distanced themselves from me after I told them about my diagnosis. We were in high school and one went to the extreme of requesting a schedule change. I tried explaining that I am still the same person, but she looked at me as if I were a murderer. She refused to have anything to do with me. I left her alone and focused on the people that stayed with me through the difficulties. They were my true friends.

Not long afterwards, I got accepted into Lee University. It’s a lovely school with amazing people, caring professors, and students who display unbelievable amounts friendship. I began working on my music education degree in 2011. I still had to see doctors and therapists, I had to get all of my prescriptions, and learn to take care of myself. My security net had been disrupted due to distance. I was now about five hours away from everyone I knew. Eventually, I had to leave for a year due to financial problems and mental health problems that placed me in hospital after hospital after hospital. I made it back to Lee and all my new friends, and made it to a new doctor. This doctor helped me to realize some things. My memory was beginning to get bad. Some days I couldn’t remember anything. I didn’t know what day it was, where I was going, what I was doing, and at times I even lost my name. Friends began to slip my mind. I would forget about events and concerts. Really the only time I could remember anything was when I was playing my saxophone.

Finally, I got some new medication to help me. I developed techniques to help myself remember and to catch myself if I suddenly forgot where I was going. Most people would have quit school at this point, but Lee was so amazing and I didn’t want to leave my friends. I found ways to take care of myself. Once again, my memory began to slip. I lost things. Important things like my wallet, keys, saxophone, and phone. All turned up, but I knew something was wrong. My doctor rearranged my medication… again. He also told me to take pictures of things and people. He said that schizophrenia is a disorder that, over time, gets worse. These memory issues of mine could eventually cause me to forget everything and everyone I once knew and loved.

Now, my friends sometimes call me the selfie queen. I take pictures with my friends all the time and for really no special occasions. Once, on tour with the symphonic band at Lee, I took pictures of my friends in the truck with me. One friend said “You take too many pictures.” I laughed it off, but later explained to him why I do that. I told him that one day I may not remember his name, who he was, or why we were together in the picture. I will, however, be able to look at the picture and know that he was a friend. He was a part of something that made me happy. I explained all that my doctor had said and he immediately began to tear up. I said again, I may not always remember you, but I can look at the picture and know we were friends and that we were happy.

Doctors can sometimes be wrong about these things. It has been a long time since I have had a major memory problem and I managed to get my degree. I still take pictures and I still remember all of my friends. Take time to remember.

This story originally appeared on Love a Schizophrenic.

Getty photo by RedlineVector

Originally published: July 5, 2019
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