Accepting a Diagnosis of Mental Illness
I can remember when I was told that I was crazy. It was an apex in my life resulting from nearly two years of skewed thinking and symptoms so bad I could barely leave my house.
The diagnosis came three days into my week-long stay at the Boulder Community Hospital after a spur-of-the-moment trip to the U.N. where I thought I was a prophet.
This trip held all the meaning in the world to me. It was my magnum opus, it was what I was put on the earth to do, and although I was apprehensive about being given the responsibility of bringing peace to the world, I carried out my mission to the best of my abilities.
There was one overarching thing I couldn’t get past, though, and that was the fact that every message I was getting from God didn’t seem to have any concrete basis in reality. There was no tangible evidence that what I was being told was real.
Because of this, I had the suspicion that something might be wrong with me, but it didn’t cement until the day I was told my diagnosis and my world crumbled. My grand status and everything I had experienced in the last year wasn’t real. It was all in my head.
It’s hard to accept the fact that you’re sick. It’s hard to face the world when you know that you’re crazy. What’s the point of getting out of bed in the morning if life is nothing but a series of days bleeding together where you’re just an insignificant speck of dust?
I had pinned everything on the notion that I was some kind of vastly important person, but I was wrong. I was just some insignificant crazy guy. What a bleak world.
For a long time afterward I tried desperately to define myself amid a daily struggle of paranoia and depression. I tried to be normal but I just didn’t have the energy to put on that show. Instead I retreated into myself. I was unsure of who I was and how this diagnosis defined me.
For years I numbed the fear with pot and I chased the feeling of grandiosity I had once had, but I could never get a hold of it. I wanted to be someone important because in that first episode I was God and it felt good.
I’d like to say that there was a single definable point at which I accepted that I was sick and I accepted that getting better would take work, but that would be a lie.
It took years of very gradual improvement and growing into the man that I am to get to a point of being comfortable with myself and with my diagnosis. It took frustration, exasperation, depression and thousands of days after days to grow into being OK with things. It took the realization that improvement takes work and it takes practice.
There isn’t a set list of principles I can share that will help someone accept their diagnosis and get better. It’s different for each person.
Perhaps the one piece of advice I can give, though, is don’t give up. Set a goal for yourself for how you want to be, for the type of person you want to be, and for how you want to be seen by the world and keep working at it.
For me, that goal was to be a normal, happy, confident man who could be easy in conversation and could relate to anyone.
I didn’t let the illness define me, and I didn’t give up with accepting life that way.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still working toward that goal but I can say I’ve gotten pretty darn good at it, and you wouldn’t have any idea I had schizophrenia unless I told you.
The takeaway? If you let your illness define you as a person and give up the fight for the life you want then there’s not a good deal you can do to get better. If you work at it, though, take your meds and constantly try to improve yourself and your situation, you can find your stability.
Hedrick, M. (2014). Accepting a Diagnosis of Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/06/02/accepting-a-diagnosis-of-mental-illness/