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Transitioning Back to a Clear Mind

A Personal Perspective: Letting go emotionally and engaging with the present.

Anastasia Shuraeva / Pexels
Anastasia Shuraeva / Pexels

I am often asked, as someone who has made a full recovery from schizophrenia, what the turning point was for me. In other words, at what point did I know I was turning a corner and getting better, where I was gaining momentum, confidence, and hope? There were actually many turning points of equal significance that have taken place during the past 12 years. No single moment in time assured me that I would heal, though.

However, if I had to pick a single indicator that my life was going to turn around, I would have to say that it was the clearing of my mind. My mind changed in college and stayed that way for almost a decade until I had three psychotic breaks in my early 30s that happened over the course of two years. In college, I transitioned from a clear mind, rational thinking, and being present my sophomore year to very repetitive, over-analytical, abstract thinking, coupled with emotional instability, that clouded my mind by my junior year. This period lasted until I was in my early thirties, and during this time of my psychotic breaks, my mind was enmeshed with conspiracies and delusions. This entire period of not having a clear mind was about 13 years.

Letting antipsychotics work was vital because I could not have recovered from my illness without them, and I will be taking them for life. But while the antipsychotics keep me stable and allow me to heal, there has also been an essential emotional process involved with letting go of my old thinking patterns and not being afraid to engage with the present fully.

Fear and loss

My style and pattern of thinking were one with who I was. I mistook these recurrent, never resolving theories to be my deepest, most inner self. So as my anti-psychotic was working, keeping me stable while my brain healed, I had to let go of what I considered precious thoughts and causes in my life I held dear to understand what it meant to be fully present and clear-minded again. It was so scary to let go of my thinking style and beliefs that had evolved over a decade and had become an intrinsic part of me and my emotional life. Allowing myself not to think about anything in particular, maybe even nothing at all, was like losing my identity and not knowing who I was anymore. It was easy to feel a bit lost.

Experiencing the present

It was so difficult to admit that what I had been thinking about and re-analyzing all the time during my 13 years of mental illness was a distraction and not that important. Retreating into my mind with familiar, repetitive thoughts sabotaged my progress and ability to function well in life and relationships. But parting with all of that was sad because it seemed like I was rejecting myself and letting go of my essence.

A great transition and aha moment for me was realizing that once I truly parted with my thinking scheme and the way my brain had been hardwired for all that time, I could then open the doors to present-day life and actually enjoy it, experiencing positive things now with everyone else and fully appreciating them. I can appreciate life again and more so other people's company. Part of enjoying everyday life and being content is being fully present and engaged with everything around me. But I couldn’t do that until I let go of all-consuming thoughts, and it was a daunting process.

In-between period

There had to be an in-between period, a middle ground where I had to let go of the repetitive thoughts, the analysis, the anger of how I thought I had been wronged before I could fully grab ahold of the present. It is this period in my life, in complete stillness, that I’m still gradually moving out of. This is where faith in myself and patience have stepped in.

All things good that are happening in my life and moving me forward have given me the resolve to be patient, letting go of my old patterns of thinking first before I can approach life with a clean slate. An empty canvas or blank sheet of paper can be scary when it is like you are starting completely over. But I have to remind myself that instead of starting over, it’s really the next chapter.

Accepting truth

There was always some resistance on my part about whether I was actually mentally ill, despite the evidence. Letting go of my thought patterns and reanalyzing was facing the truth that I had been mentally ill for so long. I thought that if I was mentally ill this whole time, then everything that happened to me was my fault, when in actuality, because I was mentally ill, nothing really was my fault and was out of my control. I finally realized that by admitting that I had not been myself, I could change and improve where I would enjoy life more and be understood better by others.

I simply had to unequivocally love and accept myself in order to face the cold truth about how I hadn’t been myself and so much of my life was wasted on thoughts going nowhere. I had to face this cold truth head-on and embrace that I hadn’t been myself, so I began to know how to find myself again. I had to first understand exactly why I was misunderstood and what was off about me, even if it hurt before I could move into my new life.

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