November 29, 2016
I can remember when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It was about halfway through a week at inpatient psychiatric services at my community hospital. It was a crushing blow.
Imagine you’ve been working for a few years at your job and you enjoy it and it gives a pretty big sense of purpose. It gives you the feeling that you’re contributing something good to society, then one day you get to the office and it’s been abandoned and it looks like it’s been that way for a couple years. You contact your boss or a superior and ask about what happened, and they say your job, your responsibilities, and even the company you work for never existed.
In truth you had made it all up in your head.
As you can imagine this confirmation that you’ve lost your grip on reality can be pretty impacting; it can lead to depression, anxiety, and the all too powerful word “crazy.” In essence what even is reality if the thing you’ve believed for the last couple of years was only a chemical imbalance in your head?
That in essence is what it’s like to be diagnosed. To be told bluntly and realistically that you’ve been crazy this whole time can you make you question every other facet of your life, from your relationships to your family and pretty much everything else. What exactly were you imagining, if this huge part of your life wasn’t real to begin with?
Recovering from that truth can be a long hard road, and you have to learn to navigate the curves and the dead ends all over again. In essence it’s like starting from scratch in building a reliable reality. It can even make you question who you are as a person.
This is the reason I tell anybody who asks for my help in dealing with a loved one with mental illness to give it time, give it plenty and plenty of time, because your loved one has to, in essence, rebuild their reality. They have to experiment and learn just what is real and what isn’t. They have to learn what it is to be a sane human being, and they have to contend with all manner of other symptoms like paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, and anxiety. They have to find out who they are as a member of the human species again.
With all that in mind it’s no wonder why it takes years to recover from mental illness and, even then, we still aren’t fully there.
Truly, the heartbreak of diagnosis has far reaching implications not only in society but also in the patient’s personal life. They don’t know who they are. It’s depressing enough to be told that you’re out right crazy, but rebuilding a life with that notion in mind, coming to terms with your illness and maybe even contributing to society, can be a long process.
If you’re experiencing a diagnosis, I feel for you and I want you to know that it’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling, and every thought you have is valid. You are not alone.
If you have a loved one with a mental illness, please keep this in mind and try not push too hard. Your loved one will recover when they can see things clearly, and that may take years. Mental illness is an extremely hard thing to deal with, not only as a patient but as a family, but if you keep going you’ll be stronger, more cohesive, and more understanding than any normal family out there.
There’s a special spark to having a mental illness as well because you’ve seen the reality of the situation for what it is, and you won’t have to bother with petty stuff anymore because you know that in the grand scheme of things none of it really makes a difference.