Having schizophrenia and bipolar disorder simultaneously has been a day to day struggle and even a moment to moment struggle that I’ve had to constantly fight. There have been times where I’ve thought of suicide; I’ve thought of running away when there’s been nowhere to run, and I’ve felt I was stuck and didn’t have any options. Many times I felt like I was confined to a limited space within my mind where the doors were locked and the windows were boarded up. However, over the years I’ve learned that there’s always a way out.
It used to be difficult to see past the near future and see anywhere beyond the near past. Now when I feel trapped I remind myself of things that have happened to me after I’ve gone through extremely difficult spurts; like in seventh grade after I went through a severe depression of five or six months that nearly ended in suicide. I worked hard and moved forward and became the most improved player on the freshman baseball team as a seventh grader. I remember receiving the reward and the feeling of accomplishment it provided. What is most salient in this memory is the way things turned around so quickly. I remind myself of times like these because they help me to realize that nothing is permanent.
The First Step
The first step in getting through a difficult time is finding hope and empowering yourself. This memory provides me with the hope that even in the absolute bleakest of times I will be able to prevail, as I did when I had far less cognitive and emotional resources than I do today. I remind myself of how good I felt after I got through that difficult time.
Take Life One Day at a Time
Another good exercise for me has been to take life moment to moment and to never let a moment define a day. I’ve had some brutal days, however. After a day like that, I sometimes have to remind myself of how there still were good things that happened. I will also sometimes treat myself to ice cream or avail myself of some other good thing that I do have control over. It’s not that I feel sorry for myself it’s more so that I feel I deserve a reward for prevailing through adversity or simply continuing to battle and persevere.
Asking for Help Will Create New Options
There have been, however, many times where I have felt stuck. During those times it seemed there were no options and there was nowhere to turn but I’ve realized there are always options that can be created or discovered, I just haven’t figured out what they are yet. It’s important for me to talk through situations and issues with my doctor and also with family members and friends. Though I used to view this as a sign of weakness, I’ve come to realize that having the courage to face my fears and issues is a sign of strength. Having the ability to admit that I have faults and problems to others also indicates that I have a secure mind, self-confidence, and emotional intelligence. While I’m talking to people I sometimes vent emotions. That can be helpful but I prefer to talk with a purpose. Examining the issues at hand and looking for solutions and or coping strategies is usually the best way to work through a problem. It’s important to know that change is always involved in problem solving. In order to resolve most issues, I am the one that has to create change in the situation and/or myself, in order for any progress to be made. Change can be difficult to face. However, if I don’t have the courage to change then the status quo will be my fate.
Change and Goal Setting
In order to create change when I’m dealing with complex situations or even psychological complexes, which I’ve had a number of, I’ve learned to set goals. I’ve realized that I can’t dismantle or face the problem entirely at once. It’s just too much and it’s too overwhelming. Therefore I pick away at it. I’ll look at a few different things I can change, and I’ll work to change either by journaling or talking to someone. These usually come to mind pretty easily. I’ll pick up my journal and I’ll think about the issue at hand and try to pick off small worries I have surrounding it. Sometimes picking off one or two small worries clears my mind of them and it allows me access to deeper worries. I continue forward and onward for a while until I feel that I need a break or I’ve resolved the issue. A complex is like a spider web; dismantling smaller strands eventually leads me to the load bearing beams and I’m able to clear away the whole complex. However, this can’t happen all at once and it’s been important for me to take breaks because I’ve had a tendency to overexert myself when I’m working on an issue.
Give Yourself a Break
When I learned to ride a bike at age six I tried and fell down for about an hour straight. I had no quit in me. My Dad forced me to take a break and this gave me time to recuperate. After the break, the first time on the bike I was away and riding. Working on any sort of issue is similar to that experience. Giving myself breaks has been important because it has allowed my subconscious to work on the issue and it has also allowed me to recover my emotional and cognitive resources. This includes setting aside time to have fun and enjoy life even when it can be difficult to do so.
Do a Good Job at What You can Control
I do find however, that the most important part of prevailing against any ongoing adversity is working hard and treating other people well. The two things that I’ve had the most control over are the way I work at my day job and the way that I treat people. Doing a good job as a meat-cutter at a butchery puts me in the right frame of mind to come home and deal with my complexes from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I remind myself I don’t have to be obsessive compulsive but I do need to do a good job because that’s what I’m being paid for and that’s what I’ve agreed to. It gives me good self-esteem and keeps my mind refreshed. It gives me a clear conscience. That clarity allows me to write essays, journal, and to think about life. It also helps me to make good life decisions. Working hard and treating people well are the keys to being successful at anything including facing ongoing adversity.
As I continue to journey through what has been a ten-year odyssey with schizophrenia I still do have my ups and downs. I remind myself of when I first started out and I couldn’t speak a coherent sentence, never mind have an intelligible conversation; how I had neurosis, psychosis, eating disorders, hallucinations, bipolar disorder, referential thinking, no friends, and a number of other issues. I remind myself that I continued moving forward to where I am now living with friends, I’m in a pool league, I golf regularly, I have a full-time job, and I’ve found my passion ––––– which is writing –– and I’m able to pursue it whenever I want. Looking ten years back and comparing my situation to the present reminds me of just how much adversity I’ve faced, just how much I’ve been able to overcome, and how much of the same will never be able to stop me.
Photo by Sherman Geronimo-Tan