Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, I found myself feeling unnecessarily ashamed that I receive help from our state. Even though I have friends in the same boat, even though these programs are in place to help individuals like us, I still hang on to the self-stigma that shames me, or more succinctly put, I shame myself for.
At the end of the day, I found the reason for journaling, then as now. Keeping a record of my thoughts, delusions, and hallucinations, as well as my day-to-day experiences, offers a window into my illness, empowering me to take action toward my recovery.
Sometimes people will ask about the content of my writing. When I tell them that I focus on living with schizophrenia and related issues, they inquire about my involvement with mental health, and I have, as a result, shared my diagnosis. So it’s a chain of questions that gets me to divulge. I only go there when I feel it’s appropriate, but I won’t shy away from a little stigma-busting when the opportunity arises.
It’s the first word that seems to come to mind when we are feeling that things are occurring too much, too fast, and / or too confusing to absorb and manage. We just simply say, we’re “stressed out”, “under stress”, or “too stressed” to handle it. When we are feeling such immense stress, we generally, and ultimately, don’t take the time to slow down to truly identify all that is happening in our minds, our bodies, and our spirit at those moments.
Explaining to someone why I was out of work and on disability was often more difficult than describing the terror of psychosis, probably because everyone understands what it’s like to have a job, and maybe lose one, but almost no one understands schizophrenia.
I saw the struggle she was going through and hoped, as her friend, that this would help her express the emotions she was feeling. After I finished choreographing my piece she told me, “This really helped me see through my uncles eyes.” I also believed Belleza’s personal connection with my piece would help her express my aunt’s emotions more sincerely through my choreography.
I feel that at my core, I’m a pretty positive guy. I don’t play the victim to my illness or my circumstances. I’m resilient and can handle anything. Maybe my life is predestined to be one of constant struggle. I don’t know. I do know I’m more than exhausted from being irrationally positive all the time. It’s draining and I can’t do it anymore.
To the uninformed public, the word “schizophrenia” seems to provoke more fear than understanding. It carries with it years of stigma, from images of horror movie stereotypes, to coverage of mass shootings. As far as the media’s concerned, when it comes to such negative imagery, I’m the Big Bad, and yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m afraid of monsters, I’m not one of them.