On Mental Health

Why schizophrenia may have saved my life.

I re-wrote chapter 5 of my self-help book on Wednesday night.

Its subject is the idea of viewing yourself as the hero or heroine of your own epic life story, as a means of empowering yourself to over come severe mental illness. I make the comment that every person should view themselves in this way anyway- because it emphasises your particular importance as an individual and celebrates the importance of your own life as a story worth telling.

However, when you’re fighting mental illness, it becomes especially poignant because it gives meaning to your struggles and the bizarre manner in which you are suffering.

It was a strange chapter to compose, because as I started to write it I realised that the idea had a lot more depth than I had first realised. The schizophrenia introduced me to this concept- by filling me head with delusions of grandeur and ridiculous notions of responsibility.

The heroine I became was “the One,” a cosmically crucial individual who was fated to save the human race and lead humanity forward. It’s a fairly standard delusion, as far as delusions go, and many people suffering schizophrenia and other severe mental illness’s develop similar delusional preoccupations and certainties.

Sometimes it was great; I believed the universe loved me and wanted to do all It could to support me. Other times it was terrifying and terrible, when I hadn’t lived up to my massive responsibility and had ‘done something wrong’ on a cosmic scale.

I had a lot of adventures, within my own mind and my own subjective mirror-world; however as the years have gone by I have been able to consider my experiences with a clearer and more rational mind, I can sense that there was a deeper meaning within my madness; a message which was deeply and personally vital.

At age 20 I believed that to be special I had to shoulder the fate of mankind; that to be important, in a cosmic sense, I had to be perfect and accountable for every thought and every action, and live up to some ideal which was unrealistic and unsustainable on a day to day basis. It has really only been in the last year or so that I have began to look at this preoccupation, and this delusional set of experiences, with a critical but more neutral eye.

I always knew, from day one, that there was truth weaved into my experiences; I knew that what was happening to me was significant in some way which I wasn’t yet able to grasp. I must have driven the doctors absolutely crazy themselves, because I point blank refused to concede that I was simply ill, or that my experiences were something to mistrust and fear.

Obviously, at the time, I was caught in a state where I couldn’t unwind the truth from the fantasy; I was crazy because I couldn’t relate to the content of my mind in a way which allowed me to relate to the world and the people around me anymore. I couldn’t separate myself from the content of my mind, and so lived out the allegory rather than taking on its wisdom.

However, as much as the “illness” was the thing causing me distress, it was also the vehicle for my development and growth. It was the “illness” itself which gave me the metaphor to recover; it gave me the experiences necessary to understand that I was already special, I was already important.

I completely misunderstood this at first, and so lived out my delusions; danced through the high times and suffered through the worst, all the while working to ensure the safety of mankind and yet completely missing the truth inherent in all that seemed to be happening to me.

I already was ‘the One.’

I already was that cosmically special and significant, merely because I existed. My life was that important, and my fate was that important, simply because. I didn’t have to save humanity in order to feel justified meeting my own eye in the mirror.

For myself, this has been a mind-bending and breath-taking revelation.

Looking back now, I can grasp how inherently insecure I was at age 20. I didn’t have too much self worth; I had self-harmed, and contemplated suicide with a flippant disregard for the larger implications of these acts. I wasn’t thoughtless or shallow; I simply didn’t think my life was worth much, and wasn’t really even aware of the deep cynicism a held for my own personal existence.

And perhaps this is why my journey has been so long, perhaps it needed to be so long, for me to grasp the injustice I did to my self by hurting myself in such ways. I clearly had a lot to learn, because it seemed to take me going crazy, and accepting a sense of responsibility for the fate of the whole world to trigger some sense of self-regard within me.

I wonder now whether these experiences were the learning curve I desperately needed to view my own fate, and my own future, as important as the fate and future of mankind.

Whether it was the universe, my own brain chemistry or some deep survival instinct, my mind gave me the right story and the right allegory to grasp and realise my own importance, and my own significance, and dear God am I able to acknowledge the sense of cosmic magic in this now.

I already am a heroine- simply because I live and breathe and work to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Twenty year old me didn’t understand that fact; and it’s likely taken me another 10 years to wrap my head around this and accept it as truth. But it was the schizophrenia itself which fuelled this voyage of self discovery, and which gave me the tools and the necessary context to view myself as someone inherently special, and someone inherently important.

I find this absolutely ironic, and absolutely mind-blowing; though I guess that is the nature of life, and learning and the universe itself.

You get given lemons, you make lemonade; and then you wonder whether any other form of fruit would make such a satisfying drink. You go out in search of apples and oranges, and accept everything which happens thereafter.

Epic life stories take place in the meantime 🙂

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Why schizophrenia may have saved my life.

  1. Schizophrenia was your challenge in life. For others, it was the final link in the person’s unwillingness to accept their challenges, left lying one by one until they all stacked up in one great tsunami.

    You have that to come; and be sure that it will. It will happen not because of your unwillingness but because of the unwillingness of others. You will survive because you always have – you taught me that.

    It does not matter how long it takes, for every step you take, be it forwards, backwards, up or down, will lead you to understand something of the world that nobody else can. It will give you the answers to things that nobody understands, leave alone wants. From the chief trick cyclist to the maddest inmate they will all reject you.

    Those who accept you, bus-driver or toilet cleaner alike, will bring you blessings you never imagined possible – but in having sunk beneath the waves a few times, the blessings will find a heart more than ready to accept them.

    For everybody else, that person is simply someone to look down on and pity them that they never became the dean of a fine university. Or a bank clerk.

    Liked by 1 person

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