September 30, 2016
There are many symptoms of schizophrenia that seem a bit off after you’ve been in the trenches for a while. There are also other secondary symptoms that occur after your official diagnosis.
This can encompass things like heartbreak and confusion. One of the most profound things that happens after you receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, though, is the immense feeling that you are odd and that you are crazy. It can be isolating to see a world of seemingly “normal” people and know that you alone are walking around with this scary stuff going on inside your head.
All too often it can become debilitating to realize that the people you see on a day to day basis don’t know the stuff that goes on in your head and have no conception of the magnitude of the thoughts that race consistently through your mind. You want to be normal, but you can’t because you’ve been diagnosed with an incurable brain disorder that makes you question the very reality of what your mind is telling you.
This disconnect can take the form of paranoia and anxiety, and the struggle to be normal despite those complications is a very real thing. These complications can lead you to being distracted or unnecessarily nervous in social situations because your mind is telling you things about the situations that you have to sift through in the moment to tease out reality; you have to slog through these thoughts in addition to maintaining a good social presence and keeping up your end of the social interaction.
Suffice it to say that it can easily be overwhelming. It’s the reason I wasn’t able to enter a grocery store or gas station until a year into my diagnosis. The thing is you remember how it used to be; you remember how easy it was to make someone smile or even laugh and you want that gregarious, lighthearted nature back, but the muck of your paranoia and delusions gets in the way. As you have to slog through the things your brain is telling you, there’s hardly any room for a positive funny conversation to happen.
Trying to be normal is a major driving force in the recovery process as well because you keep pushing for that easiness, and it comes after many years of the slog, but you have to go through the trenches first.
For the past 10 years, I’ve been honing and perfecting my craft of appearing normal, and I’ll be the first to say that it’s a process. Some days are rough, and I don’t leave my house; other days I feel great and can laugh along with the best of them. The thing I had trouble remembering, though, and the thing that would have made it a lot easier for me, is the fact that you are different from the “normals.” You shouldn’t hold yourself to the same standards, and you can’t compare yourself with a debilitating illness to the suave, normal, gregarious guy who doesn’t have to worry about the same things that you do.
The point is, you are different and you can’t hold yourself accountable to rules that were made for people that don’t have to struggle. It’s a long and painful process of recovery, and there are numerous normal people reminding you of your downfalls and your struggles, and comparing a life of mental illness to one that doesn’t have any problems is an exercise in futility.
You have to take it easy on yourself. With time and practice and perseverance you may get to that point of making people smile again. You don’t have to worry about it now, though: you just have to worry about getting better for yourself.