I’ve been blogging about my journey with schizophrenia for some months now. But I really having been truly accepting schizophrenia. My blog is, and will remain, anonymous. I hide my symptomology as much as I can. But, dangerously, I hold on to who I was rather than who I am.
If you’ve been following my blog you know that I’ve been in the search for a new job after being retired from the Army for schizoaffective disorder. I’ve been struggling to reconcile what I can do with what I can’t do. I’ve been torn apart by the knowledge that I am qualified for some incredible and well-compensated jobs. But I’ve worked in these jobs in the military. I suffered in them. I could put on a brave face and work my way through the day – by the time I arrived home I was so worn down that all I could do was crash on the couch until I went to sleep.
That is no way to live. An Egyptian pharaoh wrote in some instructions for his son (I believe that is the story) that better is bread with a happy heart than wealth with vexation.
It really will feel like a kick in the crotch to step way down professionally. Even though my rational mind is often guided by irrational thoughts, I must remember that this is only my ego talking. It’s funny that the part that bothers me the most about taking a job counting 2x4s or something similar is posting on Facebook and thinking of reactions of family and friends especially fellow soldiers.
It is high time that I stop dwelling on the past and thinking about who I used to be. In accepting schizophrenia I need to embrace that I have limitations rather than being vexed by these thoughts.
It was shortly before I fell asleep the other night that I overheard my daughter talking to my wife. I was just done, I couldn’t do more, I was out of mental energy, all I could do was retreat to bed and not get out. She said something to the effect of, “sometimes daddy just crashes instead of…” and I really can’t remember for sure the rest. I fell asleep in mental anguish from the day and feeling like the most worthless schizophrenic heap.
She’s right though. No matter what “instead of” she was talking about. I miss so much out of their lives because of this. I’m missing things because I’m either crashed out, checked out or distracted by obsessions, ruminations, fears or conspiracies. One year my wife had to drag me off of the couch to go watch my kids open their presents for Christmas, which I absently did, and then I went right back to the couch.
My goal is to begin a true attitude of accepting schizophrenia. I have severe limitations. The things other people take for granted and do without much effort come at great difficulty to me. Things
like rational thought, concentration, conversation, being in places that are even a little crowded, waiting, being around strangers, remembering a morning routine consisting of things like showering and brushing teeth, and so many other things.
In the past I thought of accepting schizophrenia as defeat, but this really is fighting back. Trying to live the way I did when I was healthy was a Sisyphean task. There was no way to win. There is only pain, exhaustion, frustration and a general worsening of my symptoms.
Instead I am doing what I can to live with my condition. This still requires me to fight against schizophrenia every day. It is my lot in life to be schizophrenic. I have a decision to make though. I had decided to fight back and try to live my life like I don’t have schizophrenia. This has failed over and over often spectacularly. My only two options are left is to give in and drift fully into madness or to learn to live with it. This is an easy decision. Accepting schizophrenia is the best thing to do.
I will accept that I probably will never have a career again. I can get jobs, and stay there a long time, but a career like I used to have just isn’t a real possibility. If anyone scoffs at what I am doing, then they really don’t know me and really aren’t worth my friendship. This may sound callous, but I only have so much social energy to give. I’ll focus on the relationships that matter.
What concerns me the most is that I am a dad and a husband and my disease impacts my family every day.
The next day when it was just the two of us I told my daughter that I know she knows I have a lot of dragons and that some days they are really bad and I can’t handle anything else. Her reply: “I know daddy, that’s what makes you you. Nobody’s perfect.” Then she gave me a big hug.
If an eight-year-old can accept me as a schizophrenic father, then accepting schizophrenia really shouldn’t be too hard for me. For her, and the rest of my family I will accept it and strive to be the best me that I can be right now, not the me that I used to be.
I would love to see in the comments below your reasons for accepting your own condition, be that schizophrenia or anything else.