Growing up I always considered myself a team player. I’d make any sacrifice and go to any lengths to be liked by my peers. As I got into college I looked back and realized that my friends from earlier years completely took advantage of this personality trait. I was always the one to organize events, do people favors, and help out in any way I could while I didn’t receive much help in return. I grew resentful of being a team player and became the penultimate individual. I wanted to do everything on my own and by myself because I was sick of being taken advantage of. This lead to a lot of trouble with schizoaffective disorder.
During my episodes I didn’t want help from anyone with doing anything. I tried to do every single thing I could by myself and also I didn’t want to help anyone else either. This completely isolated me during my episodes. I even turned away from my family who had been good to me my entire life. I wanted to do things on my own and figure them out for myself. I spent so much time isolated that I got too much inside my own head and lost my ego-boundary.
Being in isolation from peers in my apartment all day and not socializing was a major factor in losing my social skills. I carried on conversations with myself in my own mind without any outside influence and this was when I developed a lot of strange delusions which contributed to the deterioration of my mental health and hampered the overall functionality of my mind to the point where I was first hospitalized and I couldn’t speak a coherent sentence or carry on an intelligible conversation.
From age nineteen to twenty-four I had two episodes of schizoaffective disorder and I reached a point where I was trying to rehabilitate my mind, my social skills, and I was struggling to find reasons to live. As an individual I didn’t accomplish much. I finally realized I needed the help of other people to properly function and rehabilitate my mind.
At age twenty five I began listening to my doctor who was pretty much the only person other than myself whom I trusted. Even then I wasn’t willing to listen too closely to what he said. One of the problems I had was that I felt I had listened to everyone in my life growing up and I had done all the right things and I still ran into my two episodes of schizoaffective disorder which were extremely painful emotionally and mentally. Having listened to everyone and had the episodes made me disinclined to ever listen to anyone ever again because I subconsciously thought the episodes would occur again.
The illness had completely taken away my life for six years. I was living at home but I wasn’t very close with my family. My mind was in chaos and my emotions were dark with deep scars. One thing which was extremely helpful was finding writing. It kept me going because to me writing was about helping other people. Writing was the only real connection I had to society because it was the only way I was helping others or really interacting with anyone. Although I wanted friends I didn’t have the social skills to make them, so I kept helping people through my writing.
As someone who was still very individualistic I wasn’t willing to listen to others or to help them much at all either. This meant I had to figure out almost everything on my own which was partially my fault but mostly a result of the illness. This meant when I needed help I looked up how to do things instead of asking the few people who were in my life. Instead of taking advice from others I searched it out in books instead of just asking my parents or other intelligent people in my life like my doctor for answers to the difficult questions I was trying to answer.
Being on an island as an individual helped develop my mind but it was very emotionally painful.
When people asked for help and I suggested they had to do things for themselves it was a form of self-inflicted pain. Also, when I was inclined to ask others for help I decided against it because I thought I didn’t deserve the help of others since I wasn’t willing to help them.
I finally realized that being an individual in its purest form simply didn’t work for me.
After this I decided I would be an individual who was a part of the group. I still only wanted to figure things out for myself but I was more willing to help others. Being willing to help others connected me to other people in ways I never would have felt if I had stuck to individualism. Not making this switch might have been the end of me as it was extremely emotionally taxing being alone all the time. Helping others made me feel good about myself and alleviated a lot of stress.
By about age 26 I finally had some friends and I had a semblance of a social life. I had lost a lot of friends from my illness and I still wasn’t willing to fully commit to making friends or keeping people as friends. I didn’t consider myself a part of any group and I never usually called anyone my friend even though they called me their friend. I spent a few years this way and it was still very difficult emotionally. I had some people I could hang out with but I was afraid to fully commit to being good friends with anyone because of experiencing losing all my friends during my first episode.
Finally I started addressing the fear of possibly losing all my friends again because of having another episode. After I worked through the fear of losing friends I decided that I needed to be more of a team player.
Not having the fear of losing a friend before I made one allowed me to let go of my trust issues and commit to people. I was willing to let them into my heart because I wasn’t afraid I was going to lose them and experience the same pain I had in earlier years. I learned that relationships have give and take and you have to put in effort to keep friends and also put in effort to be a good friend in order to have good friendships.
Developmentally when I started listening to other people I began learning more than I ever could have imagined learning through thinking things through on my own. I began gleaning information from every source I could such as things people said in conversation, my parents lessons for me while growing up, and every other source I had been ignoring as a result of wanting to figure out everything on my own.
When I decided that I wanted to be a team player who was an individual, my thinking began to change and my health began improving immensely. I learned there’s a balance between my needs and everyone else’s needs and that sometimes I had to put the team’s needs first and other times my own first. Switching my mentality towards being a part of the group helped me to connect better with other people. I learned that greatness is helping others and not necessarily helping yourself.
I learned from Shaquille O’Neil that the greatest players make the people around them better and in return those people make them better too. Life is a team game and not an individual sport.