Over the years it took me time to not view myself from a stigmatic vantage point. I had learned many false notions from popular culture, conversations throughout my life, and from medical staff as well. Getting rid of the stigma I had towards myself has been a big step in improving my mental health.
When I made my first in-patient stay at a local hospital I was absolutely terrified of the doctor. He was stern and cold and in my mind he represented doctors who I had seen in movies and TV. He had no personability and I wasn’t able to make a connection to him.
His decision to intentionally disconnect from me fed into my belief that I was less human at that moment. It fed into the feeling of being an other and inferior and being a unit that needed treatment as opposed to a person who needed to get his life back. From the start of care there was a seed planted in my mind that he was the doctor, I was the patient, and that I was a problem that needed to be solved. I began viewing myself as a problem that needed to be solved which was a difficult way to go through the world.
Hearing the diagnosis that I had schizophrenia was even more terrifying. I pushed it away at first because of all the stigma surrounding the word. In later years I figured out that schizophrenia was a word to encompass the symptoms I had already experienced and nothing additional was going to happen. Realizing this was a major relief but it took about two years.
These symptoms came in the form of having disorganized thinking, some obsessive-compulsive behaviors, occasionally seeing and hearing things, sleeplessness, extreme highs and lows emotionally, and experiencing a multitude of anxiety that made me unable to speak, think, and process language at times. For me, schizoaffective disorder has been nothing more than these things. Originally hearing the word schizophrenia associated with my identity worried me that I would become like people I had seen in the movies and on television. Over time I figured out that I wasn’t anything like those people and no one with psychosis really is.
Not viewing myself as a problem to be solved took even more years of work to unravel. I had read Nietzsche and deep within my mind was the “will to power” also known as the “will to truth”. I believed my ability to find the truth was going to lead me out of the depths of my schizophrenia symptoms which was partially true.
However, over the years I developed a rigid belief system that was solely focused on finding the deepest truth within any and every situation which was damaging. This became a major barrier in connecting to others and being able to have a good social life. I had some individual friends but I was in a lot of pain.
I originally thought I was in a lot of pain because of the traumatic experiences that caused the illness but I learned the illness is a series of judgments and fears interconnected with pain from traumatic experiences. To break down these thought webs I couldn’t get rid of my “will to truth” necessarily but I had to learn some better social skills and priorities surrounding my will to truth and the purpose for it as well. When working on getting healthier I still had to give myself absolute truths but I had to learn the time and place to do so in conversations with others.
I had to learn to put everyone else’s health and well-being as well as my own before my desire to know the truth and my desire for others to know the truth. There were many instances I should have let things go and I should have allowed people to say and do the wrong things however I was correcting everything everyone was saying. I also learned that there are many truths about a situation that can be shared and you don’t have to give someone an absolute truth to get through a conversation where you are in disagreement. I thought I only had to ingest good information to get to the absolute deepest truths so that I could recover from schizoaffective disorder. I also thought that other people needed the truth all the time so that they could improve as well.
The irony of the situation was that in some instances I needed the truth, but my “will to truth” was a source of pain and suffering. It kept me distant from everyone in my life. Once I began figuring out that I’m a human being first who is allowed to should enjoy life and that solving problems comes afterward I began connecting to others much better.
Much of my illness was structured around my desire to write, help others, and to keep improving. I had to learn people’s feelings, emotions, and wellbeing always come before the truth. I learned that our health and well-being is the purpose for the truth and this set me free from my self-destructing desire to constantly find truth.
The truth is an instrument to help us become healthier, not to constrain us and trap us within obsessive rituals. The more I deconstructed the thought webs of striving towards intellectual excellence the healthier I became and as I became healthier my writing improved in ways it otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
This created a paradigm shift in seeing myself in a more human way as opposed to a problem that needed to be solved. I decided my life has to come before my writing and my work. Before this, I had been living a lifestyle of efficiency, minimalism, perfectionism, and conditioning myself with behavioral and cognitive practices just for the sake of improving my writing.
Unlearning this was incredibly helpful to feeling better and getting healthier and when I learned that everyone’s health and wellness come first, including my own, it alleviated the mental restraints I had self-imposed upon myself. I had to unlearn what I thought was self-help to liberate my mind.