Schizophrenia is a disease I have, not the definition of who I am as a person. If I had my wish, I would always be an individual with unique attributes, opinions, likes, and dislikes. For example, I love chocolate desserts, but I hate lemon ones. These details, some small – like the two I mentioned – or some big – like I have been married to the love of my life for over twenty years, am middle-aged, and work as a freelance writer – make up a complicated and big life.
Everyone is unique
There is nothing I find too extraordinary about my experiences. When people talk about how the universe broke the mold when a one-of-a-kind person was born, I feel that way about everyone. Each of us is an absolute original, or as I like to say, a masterpiece (even if slightly bent or flawed).
I do have symptoms of schizophrenia daily, like olfactory hallucinations (smelling things that aren’t there) and episodes of paranoia and anxiety. These are challenges I face like someone with depression, OCD, an addiction, or eating disorder faces challenges. There are days that my symptoms take up all of my time, there are other days when they take up a couple of hours, and still, other days, when having schizophrenia is hardly noticeable to me.
Not the whole picture
As I mentioned, my symptoms of schizophrenia are not my whole life, just like someone’s political party is not their entire life. I belong to a specific political party, and half of the country belongs to a different one, but it doesn’t make us care less about the people around us, or change the need to eat or sleep, or the desire to spend time with others or alone. It also only gives us a small glimpse into someone’s life, personality, and what they deem important. The same is true of schizophrenia. By telling someone I have the illness, they can probably say a few true things about me, but only a few. Examples might be that I have experienced psychosis, I have heard voices, I take medication, I have had delusions, and I have suffered from high levels of paranoia.
If we look for the things we have in common or that we share, we will see a little of ourselves in everyone. If we focus on the differences, or what we don’t know or understand, people will seem farther from us or like strangers. I hope that people can build a bridge with me and others with schizophrenia and start at a familiar place, reach out a hand, become acquainted, and possibly one day share a laugh and smile and the hope of a new friend.