I was 34-years old when I was formally diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
Since my childhood, I had been suffering from increasingly debilitating feelings of anxiety and depression. As I approached my teens these feelings intensified; and, by my mid-to-late 20’s, I was subjected to delusional and crippling paranoid thoughts, and I started hearing arguments within my mind.
When I was in my late-teens and early 20’s, it had never occurred to me that I may have a sick mind. I simply believed that I was extremely blessed – that I had been given a gift. I was able to think on a significantly higher level than most, or so I thought. I was extremely logical and pragmatic – I was able to look at problems and issues with greater insight and clarity – it was this which enabled me to excel in academia, and in general.
By the time I was 30 I realized that there was something significantly ‘wrong’ with me. Not the usual ‘weirdo’ stuff that I’d grown up with as a kid, but perhaps an actual illness. I was stuck in a quandary – my brain wouldn’t turn off. I started reminiscing and questioning every awkward and uncomfortable event in my life that I had ever suffered through.
I knew that I was more empathetic than the average joe, but my empathy and curious mind were part of what made me unique. I was, always had been, and always would be a free spirit. I fit in, yet I never really fit in. I was under a constant state of stress – how much of which was self-imposed – I couldn’t tell. I had been putting all my ‘odd’ feelings and thoughts aside for so long, and now they were beginning to possess me.
Unfortunately, those traits that made me a unique person didn’t fit in with the blood-thirsty rat-race called ‘the corporate world,’ or even in our social construct – at least that’s what I was being conditioned to believe. However, part of what helped me succeed at first was that, I was able to include compassion and empathy in my logic.
Somehow, I had managed to ignore and bury any illogical feelings and symptoms as best I could, and I kept on chugging along. I was ‘the little engine that could…’
Until I had a complete meltdown when I was 33.
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As I came to accept my condition, I decided to be upfront and open about my illness. I refused to be shamed because I had an ‘invisible illness.’ Almost instantaneously I learned that this decision was a big mistake…
First off, everyone was suddenly an expert on mental illness. Co-workers, friends, family – they all claimed to have suspected it and saw my meltdown coming.
Secondly, no one wanted anything to do with any kind of mental health issues – they didn’t want to be associated with that ‘weird uncle,’ or the ‘never-seen Boo Radley’ who lived next door. The exception was my wife and parents – without whom I would probably now be dead or on the streets at the very least.
What I learned was that the stigma associated with having any mental illness was monumental and permanent. Most did not understand – they did not want to understand.
Most friends disappeared. Co-workers dismissed me and my ideas.
I was swept under the carpet all along with the rest of society’s undesirables.
I was made to feel like a weakling. Like I had no balls. Like I was a little pussy.
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I am now 49-years old. It took me over 10 years to become stable. I take my meds faithfully. I see a psychiatrist and a psyche nurse regularly. Over the past two-and-a-half years I have written a novel, which is just in the first steps of being published. I have been looking for a way to be an advocate for those with mental health issues. This is my first blog, and I intend on continuing to stretch myself out as far as I possibly can to advocate for you and your loved ones.