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To Someone Who's Just Been Diagnosed With Schizophrenia

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So the doctors just told you you have schizophrenia?

Listen to what they have to say about treatment. Plan to make medications part of your life. Know you’ll have to take them seriously and regularly.

Then, relax — life is not over for you.

Let all the stereotypes you’ve been subjected to over the years go. Having schizophrenia doesn’t mean you are destined to hurt people, believe in wild conspiracies or talk to voices on the street.

You will hear people say that schizophrenia is the most (or one of the most) severe of the mental illnesses. You will read stories about people who became completely different after their first episode. You’ll hear stories about that “bright and shining star” who is now suddenly unable to perform the most basic tasks. Don’t believe them, you are still a bright and shining star.

You can still go to college. You can still have a career, or buy a house or get married. You do not have to be defined by your illness. You may have to work harder for some things than other people, so prepare yourself to be strong. Prepare yourself to be courageous. Prepare yourself to walk a path not many have cleared for you. The trail can at times get thick with weeds, but you have the tools to cut the overgrowth. You can move a branch, or jump over a log. Just because your path isn’t well manicured doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful. There is beauty in the wild. There is beauty in adventure. There is growth and discovery.

Bring a camera and a notebook to document your journey. Your work could make the path easier to pass for those who come after you. Find your heroes. Find the success stories. Learn their tricks when things gets hard. Don’t be afraid to look for clues in the stories of others.

Don’t let the illness be your life, dictate your fulfillment or happiness. Find your passion, and live not for your illness but for that passion. Be a scientist. Be a business owner. Be a painter. Be a lawyer. Be a writer. Dream big. Schizophrenia can change your dreams, but don’t let it steal them.

If things get tough, and they occasionally will, be prepared to get back up after the fall. Become an expert at getting on your feet. People who get up over and over again are not failures — they are fighters. Be a fighter. Be a fighter for me, for you, for the people before us and for those after us.

And remember the most important thing of all: you are worthy of true love. Don’t deny yourself relationships. In these relationships you’ll have the chance to discover your deepest nature, and it won’t have anything to do with schizophrenia.

You are not schizophrenia. Remember those words.   

Follow this journey on A Journey With You.

Originally published: September 16, 2015
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