I was talking to a friend the other day who is a clinician at a home for people with mental illness, and I told her I know what it’s like to suffer. She said something that struck a chord, though: she said she thought it was more a case of heartbreak than anything else.
I had never heard it described that way before, but I knew exactly what she meant.
I can remember when I was first diagnosed. I was so crushed by the label of schizophrenia that I could hardly will myself to do anything. I was in fact, heartbroken.
I knew that with this label of being crazy I would no longer be accepted into the world as a normal human being. I knew that everything I thought was so real and the calling I had bestowed upon myself as a prophet was nothing more than a chemical imbalance. Any significance that I had imagined was nil. It was nothing and I was crazy.
I knew that being crazy, I would be shunned by the world. Any attempt on my part to do something big would be dismissed as mental illness.
I’d like to say I got past that feeling, but that would be a lie. Every small step in my recovery, every success I’ve had thanks to hard work has been, at its most basic, an attempt to prove the world wrong.
There’s a feeling that you have to do everything perfectly, that you have to exceed the highest expectations to overcome a diagnosis of mental illness. You feel like you have to prove to the world that you can still compete. This has been the driving force behind not only my recovery, but the fact that I’ve written two books and have been published everywhere from The Week to Scientific American and The New York Times.
I wanted to prove that the label of crazy did not make me deficient. I got enough of feeling deficient before the diagnosis simply by way of growing up overweight.
It’s been a hard road to prove to not only myself, but to the world that I was worth it.
The stigma of mental illness has been described many times as worse than actual symptoms. I don’t know if that’s true; both are equally debilitating. The overwhelming consensus of people when they hear that someone is crazy is that that person is violent, unstable, defective or just plain meaningless. It’s sad.
It also can motivate you to prove them wrong. It means you have to fight even harder to fit in to this world. It’s even more devastating when you assign those attributes to yourself by way of a diagnosis.
The point is, the heartbreak that comes with hearing the simple fact that you’re crazy doesn’t have to be the end. It can spur you to do great things if you stay stubborn and don’t accept the diagnosis as a veritable death sentence.
The crazy label is only the beginning of your journey. If you’re willing to work hard and fight against the stigma and the notion that you’re not worth it because you’re crazy, great things can happen.
Just please, don’t give up.