When I was diagnosed eight years ago with schizophrenia I was so riddled by delusions and paranoia that I could hardly step foot outside. I was constantly worried that people were thinking things about me, talking behind my back and conspiring against me. In the thick of it, it was me against this horrible evil world, and to say it broke me would be an understatement.
Over the next few years, as I began to come to terms with the notion that what was I was thinking was the result of an illness and as far from the truth as can be conceived, it occurred to me that I wanted to be normal. I wanted with all my heart to not worry about the truth of things and, though it seemed impossible at the time, I wanted to carve out a niche in this world for myself where I’d be comfortable in my own skin. I wanted to have a job and I wanted a relationship and I wanted a house where I could feel at home with my thoughts.
As soon as I accepted that I was, in fact, sick and these things I was thinking were not real, it was as though a burden had been lifted off my back. No longer did I have to worry that people were watching my every move, ready to pounce if I showed an ounce of weakness. It took a while to accept that, but I realized, that’s probably the best thing anyone can do for themselves after a major diagnosis. Coming to terms with something so big and letting it be ok with you is crucial to re-learning how to be a human being.
After accepting your diagnosis, there’s a long long process of getting better that involves, if nothing else, an incredible amount of diligence. In essence, you have to want to work to get better.
Diligence is defined as careful or persistent work or effort and just like achieving anything else in life it takes practice and an iron will to keep wanting to get better.
Think of your recovery like a career, you have to put work in. You have to show up everyday and do your best if you want to climb up the ladder.
Another good analogy is learning a difficult skill. In order to master it, you have to practice, practice, practice, until you reach a level of comfort with your performance.
And it’s true that life in our society is basically a big performance. If you want to be normal, if you want to show that you’re comfortable on stage, you have to practice.
This is where I could probably say something about how after a good deal of work on something and constant and persistent practice, habits start to form, and it becomes easier and easier to do the thing you want to do whether that’s climbing the corporate ladder or recovering from a major mental illness.
This could also be applied to myriad other forms of recovery from drug and alcohol abuse to losing movement in your legs. It takes work and that’s the fact of it.
Being diligent requires both an image of what you want to achieve as well as a good deal of self-analysis to evaluate where your skills lie and how you can improve. It also requires the fortitude to keep going. When you don’t do something exactly right, just take note and think about how you can improve. With more and more practice you’ll become better and better at being a normal human being.
If you fail, just keep picking yourself back up and keep trying. You will get better. I guarantee that.
It’s true what they say that practice makes perfect.