When horses pull a carriage, sometimes they are wearing blinders over their eyes so they cannot look to the right or left. They can only look forward without any distractions coming into their view. This is a good picture of how I approach my life in recovery from schizophrenia. Metaphorically speaking, putting on blinders each day is a way I have learned to cope with my diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Every month I go to a veteran’s hospital to get blood work for my medication and to get my monthly injectable. On the drive there, I am the only one in the car so if I hear a voice, I block it out because the doors are locked, windows are up, and I know I am the only one in the car. If I see a shadowy figure appear beside me, I might look again to be sure there is no one there. Just as a horse wearing blinders looks straight ahead to the path before him, I try not to be distracted while I am driving.
My first stop at the hospital is the blood lab. Waiting in line I often hear other veterans saying something like,” Hurry up and wait,” meaning they hurry to get to the hospital, but then they have to wait in line. If a vet appears to be talking to me, I concentrate on looking at his lips. If his lips are closed, then I could be imagining they are talking directly to me. If their lips are moving and they are talking, and I see that their eyes are showing some interest in what I have to say, then I engage in conversation with them. I concentrate on giving my full attention to the veteran.
An old delusion that I have is that I have special powers or ESP. Sometimes I hear someone saying they are interested in my special powers, thinking they could make a lot of money by using my special powers. It seems like they are speaking to me through telepathy or making eye contact with me. Their moving lips are blurred. I realize it is not going on. This is the unreality. I consider myself high functioning, but I still hallucinate. I still have impulses, and I still hear voices. By examining the evidence around me, I do my best to ignore unreality. I look straight ahead concentrating on something ahead of me.
Stress, hunger, fatigue, and sometimes over-stimulation can cause me to experience symptoms. If the voices are making things hectic in my head, I try to determine what might have triggered this symptom. Am I stressed about something? Have I eaten in the last few hours? Did I get enough sleep? Asking myself these questions helps to get me focused on reality again.
When I am at the veterans hospital, I am usually tired because I have to get up so early. After the blood lab, I usually get a cup a coffee and a muffin, and I do my best to ease into the rest of my day. With my blinders on I know I am there for my medication, and I want to make that my focus. Finally, after I receive my medication and talk to my doctors, I am ready to head home. I have accomplished my task.
At home, it is just me. Recently, some renovations have been going on in my building. I hear hammering and sometimes beating on the walls. Sometimes my apartment shakes a little. I ignore it. It has nothing to do with me. Concentrating on what is going on around me can be comforting because I know this is not a delusion. In any given hour, I can hear doors shut, and people going up and down steps. This is real. This is happening, but it has nothing to do with me. I don’t have to react to any of it.
In the early evening, I go to kickboxing which is a release from all the annoying delusions, hallucinations, and impulses. I know that those symptoms aren’t real, but I still have to deal with them. Exercise can clear my head of all that is in the unreality. I am not at kickboxing to actually get into a ring and fight anyone. I go for the exercise, and I concentrate on listening to the call outs from the instructor. I wish I could tell you that I don’t experience delusions and symptoms while I am at my kickboxing class, but it is a strenuous workout which creates stress. A car’s headlights may shine in the window of our class, and I think someone is trying to get my attention. Sometimes I think the instructor is telling me through telepathy that I can be a professional kick boxer. I think he likes the fact that I lose myself on the bag and get into a zone where no one but the instructor can talk to me through telepathy. I try to release all of my symptoms and impulses on the bag. I still might hear voices, but they are just blurred lips and mouths, so I know it’s not actually going on. It helps to beat the bag. It helps to block everything out on the bag with every punch and kick. I use the symptoms I experience at kickboxing as fuel to move forward, and punch and kick my rage on the bag, like a race horse in a strenuous race focusing on what is ahead and constantly moving forward.
This is how I deal with my schizophrenia on a daily basis. I do get tired of dealing with it, but with the right treatment plan, I do have some symptom-free days, as well. It is important not only to accept my illness but to have a release from the anger that comes with it. Yes, I have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness — schizophrenia, but I love my life. I am glad I can help others understand mental illness. Horses need their blinders so they don’t get distracted from the assignment life has given them — so they can focus and concentrate on going forward. Every morning, I get up with the same purpose, making the most of every day I am given. My blinders make it possible for me to cope with schizophrenia.