For the longest time, I made an effort to forgive myself for having schizophrenia and for everything I thought I had caused myself to go through. A part of me knew that it wasn’t my fault that I had schizophrenia, however, I couldn’t fully accept the idea. I looked back on my life and nitpicked everything I had ever done to try to determine what exactly had caused it. It was a great emotional burden to hold this self-anger and self-blame.
During my episodes of schizophrenia I was socially dysfunctional and it caused a lot of people to dislike me. These people didn’t understand why I was withdrawn, why I wouldn’t respond to them when they tried talking to me, and why I was so angry. I had a lot of anger while experiencing my first episode and I yelled a lot. However, I never hit or harmed anyone. I was living with a number of people who became extremely harsh and critical of every little thing I was doing. Being subjected to this treatment lead me to believe that I deserved to be treated this way. The way others treat us is sometimes the way we treat ourselves. I had to learn that I wasn’t deserving of their unusually cruel behavior. I had to realize that a lot of times the way others treat us isn’t always appropriate regardless of who was right or wrong or who was at fault or not at fault. It meant I got something I didn’t deserve. Any one of those people could have tried helping me. Some of them did but they weren’t able to but most of them didn’t. Once I knew this a part of the burden was alleviated. However, I still had not forgiven myself.
I learned that in order to forgive myself I had to forgive everyone else for the things that they had done. I realized that the I was treating other people was the way that I was treating myself. I had a lot of social anxiety for a long time and this was because I had set negative expectations for socialization. Being overly critical of others caused me to feel that they would be overly critical of me thus causing negative and burdensome emotions. I was nitpicking every little thing others were doing and also that I was doing and this was causing me a great deal of mental rigidity. I had to learn to let go. There were several events in my life which I thought had contributed to me having schizophrenia. One of which was going through a middle school experience where I was told by numerous people daily that I should kill myself. At one point I nearly did. In later years I thought traumas like these were the reasons I eventually developed schizophrenia. The theoretical cause of schizophrenia is that there is a biological element inherent in people who get it. However, there are usually life events that set the illness into motion.
To let go of the past I had to learn to understand the people who had been picking on me. They were kids in the seventh grade who were going through one of the most difficult times anyone can go through in life; growing up. They had issues of their own they didn’t understand and when I was able to forgive people for events like these and in college like the cruel behavior I received, the floodgates were opened. I felt immediate relief which was something I had been working towards acquiring for years. Once I forgave the kids from middle school it seemed ridiculous that a thirty-year-old man could be angry at a group of seventh and eighth graders.
A part of understanding my ailment was knowing that I always had a biological inclination to it. If I did not have a biological inclination towards schizophrenia, none of these events would have caused me to have schizophrenia. Without my illness, I would not have gone through the events I went through and my life would have been completely different. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder simultaneously were the perfect storm and there was nothing I could do to stop it until later years. In hindsight, all I could do was fix it afterward.
After years of searching for relief, I finally realized that I had no control over the way I was born. I used to think if my experiences had been different then I still wouldn’t have developed schizophrenia. Once the blinding fury of hatred was alleviated by forgiving myself and others I was able to see my life events for what they truly were. Although they seemed to have caused the ailment they certainly weren’t my fault. They were mostly misunderstandings on the part of myself and others.
For me, the easiest way to forgive people is by understanding them. I wasn’t very good at socializing in earlier years and the other people weren’t either. Understanding what people truly mean instead of assuming they’re being malicious has been the key to letting go of the past. Many times people just didn’t know what to do or how to do it and I misinterpreted what they meant. We’ve all just been figuring things out as we go, regardless of our age, myself included. I learned before I jump to conclusions I have to understand someone’s vantage point and make an effort “To bring chaos to order”, instead of simply perpetuating a problem. This knowledge is my fuel for forgiveness. When I’m able to let go of other people’s mistakes it allows me to let go of my own. A discordant social situation simply needs to be fixed. This has brought me a great deal of clarity and understanding about my own life and others. With the help of forgiveness, I was finally able to lift the world off my shoulders and live a far more peaceful life.
Photo by Thomas Leuthard