How Schizophrenia Manifests Itself in Relationships

Michael Hedrick
January 20, 2016  | Last Updated: January 19, 2016

Relationships are hard for me.

Dismissing the fact that I’m a big dude to begin with, there’s always been the dark cloud of schizophrenia hanging over my head as well.

It’s funny and sad and bewildering to think about the fact that the stigma still exists where if I were to tell a potential date that I suffer with schizophrenia the date would be over in a matter of minutes.

In one instance I disclosed my illness to a nice girl who taught kindergarten, she was odd herself in between demanding texts and ditzy mentions of how her favorite things were unicorns and glitter and that she was a kindergartner in the body of a twenty-something woman. The date was stifled to begin with and she talked the entire time about inconsequential stuff like the fact that she had bought a new couch or that there was a leak in her apartment or how she was making onesies for her niece. Finally she asked about me and my work and as explaining what I wrote about led to more questions, I disclosed my illness against my better judgment. After a trip to the bathroom to, I assume, collect herself, she asked if I had ever been violent or killed anyone. Suffice it to say we both agreed to move on.

The stigma of the word schizophrenia is like plunging a knife into the heart of an otherwise pretty good date and I’d be lying if I said the word itself doesn’t connote some dark, vicious thing that is inevitably feared due to overwhelming reports of school shooters and maniacs having mental illnesses. It’s like the word can turn you from a simple happy guy into a violent monster. It’s unfair but that’s where things stand and for the most part I’ve learned to accept it.

In all honesty. I’ve also learned to be careful about disclosing my illness to anyone I don’t know well, and if they’re really curious they can do a Google search and see everything I’ve written. That happened with another girl. We met after a few jokey texts that made it seem like we would get along but the date was strange and confusing as she knew all my secrets before we had even met. It was like I was trying to atone and prove to her that I was a good person despite the stigma of the things she had read. One good part about the vulnerability inherent in disclosing your illness is that people seem to trust you more as this girl told me about her struggles with addiction. The date seemed ok but when I texted her that night she said she didn’t feel a spark and that was that.

Just getting over the stigma is hard enough but there are also things to consider once you’re in a relationship.

Sometimes the stress of being in one can overwhelm you to the point of breakdown. I recently had to end a relationship because the anticipation of being with someone every night fueled an all-encompassing, consuming anxiety that in the truest sense of the word made me lose my grip on reality. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and symptoms like psychosis that I hadn’t had in years came flooding back into the picture. It terrified me. The girl was nice, she was kind and she was patient but I just couldn’t take it. I needed stability and if a relationship compromises that, it’s something that I’m not willing to deal with.

The main lesson I learned from that is that I have to be careful with love, I have to go into it slowly if I’m going to go into it at all. Which I’m still not sure that I even want to do, if this all-consuming anxiety is part and parcel of the whole thing I don’t want it.

I’ve learned that, given my weight, the anxiety and the stigma, relationships that work for me are, to say the least, few and far between.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, my illness and people as a result of all of this though. I’ve learned the true consequence of stress when it comes to maintaining stability and I’ve learned that I have to put my wellness above everything else, even love.

We’ve all heard stories about love driving people crazy and I’m a living witness to that testament.

For now, I’m ok, I have my stability and if that’s all I can ask for that’s fine, maybe somewhere down the road the right girl will come along but for now, I’m ok.

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