Trigger warning: This post contains an extensive discussion of Schizophrenia.
What do you visualize when you think about someone who sees things and hears voices? Padded rooms, pills, outcast, violence? Even if those aren’t the images that fly to mind, you probably have some form of preconceived vision. I know I did. Now, entertain this thought: the dude sitting next to you in class, eyes locked on the Professor because they’re desperately trying to hear the lecture over the voices. He could be the one you occasionally eat lunch with, someone you know online, someone otherwise entirely outwardly ‘functional’.
Functionality is the idea of whether or not one can be perceived by others as neurotypical, someone who doesn’t display any atypical neurological patters of thought or behaviors.
Today I stand on the end of the eighty-second day since my first break with reality and the plunge into Schizophrenia. Beyond just having the disorder itself, I am gifted with the blessing of a curse. Unless I’m having a particularly hard time, you could meet me and have no idea. I will ask you to repeat yourself, followed by an apology. You may think me rude, that I’m not paying attention. But I promise I am, sometimes it’s just hard to hear over other things. You may think my break in eye contact is impolite, but I am simply trying to figure out if the car racing off of the road behind you is real or not.
Being high functioning in any disorder can be hard because people assume your act is all there is. That the face value of your smile, your personable small talk, your work persona, is all that’s going on. It makes it easy to undermine the severity of the war raging upon your inner world. Just because you’re able to act normal, go about your days without an outward hitch, and only break down around those you’re close to, doesn’t mean you’re any different than the person being chemically restrained in the hospital.
You are both suffering, just in different ways. And having been in both situations, I prefer being drugged out of my mind, that way it attacks me less.
So if you are one of us, the hidden high functioning, battling a world that thinks you have to publicly fall apart to be suffering, I stand with you.
If you wake up in the middle of the night, tears streaming down your face, hand clasped to your mouth to hide your yell as you shatter into a million pieces, I stand with you.
If you go to work, go to school, help your family, sustain your relationships, and fight another day even if all seems hopeless, I stand with you.
Even if your disorder feels like a unique war of never before seen proportions, you are not alone, and I stand with you.
And even though I’m still in the thick of it myself, I know that no matter what, failure is not an option. Losing battles is okay, I’ve lost so many already. But with every defeat comes a lesson learned, a weapon gained to use on the next front. And I hold out faith that one day, the bloodshed will come to an end, a truce will be shaken upon, and peace will reign over the lands.
Pretending you’re okay is exhausting, but explaining why you’re not can also be. Sometimes someone close to me will ask me to explain, to elaborate, but perhaps I was vague for a reason. Maybe I don’t wish to explain the insecurities the voices scream at me, maybe I don’t feel comfortable allowing you that much inside my head. What if I don’t want to accidentally go into too much detail and bother you? You don’t have to know what’s going on, relish in that, for I am trapped and I wish every day I had the luxury that you do.
But if I say that, if I decide to not tell you as to not be excessive, the stock you place in the severity of my distress shrinks. You may come to believe that I don’t trust you. But I do, I do trust you. I want you to feel close, so I disclose. I tell you the words I hear, I share the hallucinations I see, the things I feel, the nightmares that plague me. But then I sit there as emptiness takes over like a swell of sickness, my eyes resting on the text on the screen.
Perhaps I didn’t want to tell you, because I didn’t want to tell myself.
It’s hard to lie to myself when it’s all written out like that. The struggle becomes greater in the mornings as I can’t pick myself up from my tear stained pillow. When I know there’s something wrong with me, when I know you know, when I know you knowing helps nothing. I know that today is going to be like yesterday, and tomorrow will be the same. It gets to the point where mental absence is preferable to emotional disclosure.
I know that’s not right, that numbness is never the correct path to take.
But when you’re staring at your own reflection in the mirror that no longer obeys you, saying things you wish were untrue, it’s hard to want anything other than to become nothing.
So I leave you with this thought.
Being a fractured shadow of yourself filtered through a kaleidoscope of fears and illness isn’t the end. I know what it feels like, that you may be staring at the dark abyss of uncertainty. Because I’m here to take your hand and fall into it with you to prove that there is a throne waiting for you on the other side. It is not the end, it can’t be. I refuse to accept that.
Fight and earn the jewels to your crown that you will wear with a smile on your face once the dust has cleared and the war has ended. I know we can all arise from the ashes, rulers of our worlds. So raise up the sword of your angst, and let’s win this thing together.