Don’t get me wrong, I wish there was a cure for schizophrenia, and that people could say goodbye to this often debilitating and life-threatening illness. I try hard not to romanticize mental illness in any way, but the consequences of having a severe mental illness have not been all negative. Here are five ways that living with schizophrenia has made me a better person.
- Having schizophrenia increased my compassion and empathy. I care about everyone who suffers from schizophrenia, not just me. I think about the homeless and the people in prison, and the people who are medication resistant. I think of all those people who may have it worse than me, and I try to advocate for them. I write about their struggles and try to get others to pay attention. I frequently write to my representative in Congress. I not only care about people with schizophrenia, I care about all people who have, or have had to suffer. I know what it is like to suffer and can sympathize with people who have lived through trauma or are dealing with a chronic or mental illness.
- I don’t take anything for granted. Two strangers rescued me from two suicide attempts. My illness nearly killed me. I feel lucky to be alive. Knowing that I came so close to losing my life, gives me a different perspective on almost everything that happens to me. I feel like every day is a gift that I almost didn’t get to experience – this knowledge makes being grateful and thankful almost like second nature.
- I work hard at relationships. I know that there are times when dealing with my illness is difficult for the people who are the closest to me. When I am stable, I make every effort to be there (in any way possible) for the people who have supported me, because I know that their care has contributed to my treatment. I actively appreciate friends and family.
- I am stronger. Life has its ups and downs, disappointments and tragedies for those of us who have schizophrenia and those of us who don’t. Dealing with a severe mental illness has made me better at dealing with the tough stuff that comes up in life.
- I am full of hope. I have spent up to six months in an active state of psychosis. My prognosis was bleak. I recovered from that long lasting episode and went on to start a new career, make friends, and enjoy life again. When the unlikely happens to you, you tend to believe that it can happen to anyone.
I would be the first to get in line if there was a way to cure schizophrenia, but since that day hasn’t come yet, right now you’ll find me looking for something worth keeping in a pile of mud. And there is something worth keeping – it’s me and all the ways I’ve grown from having to live with a severe mental illness. It has knocked me out and knocked me down, but I keep getting up better than the last time. Schizophrenia is not going to win. I’ve got some awesome tools and can put up a good fight.
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