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Schizophrenia: Living in Fear

We are all fighting the same battle together.

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

As someone with schizophrenia, lately I have been struggling with my day-to-day responsibilities. Every task that looms over me feels like a mountain I don’t know how to climb, even if I have done it a hundred times before. If I had to count how many times a day I say to myself, “I can’t do this,” I would definitely run out of fingers. I replay in my mind all the things I have done wrong, all the mistakes I have made, and I can’t stop it until it ends with “you’re such a loser.” Even if I’m doing all the things right, it always ends with this.

When I have these thoughts, I never attribute them to schizophrenia. I don’t say to myself, “Schizophrenia is causing me to think this way.” I truly believe what I tell myself. I truly believe that I can’t do anything right, that I make too many mistakes, and that I am such a loser. I see people in my work environment who are always happy, courageous, confident, and curious. It’s a daily struggle for me to get up in the morning and go to my job, and I wonder why I can’t be like them. I constantly compare myself to them, contemplating what is wrong with me. Why can’t I just be happy? Why do I have to worry all the time that everything I do is going to fail? Why do I live and breathe fear?

I felt compelled to ask my psychologist if he has experienced this with other schizophrenics; if others like me fear the most minimal tasks they have to accomplish as part of their everyday lives. The answer I got surprised me. The answer I got was yes.

Many schizophrenics live in fear because our brains do not rely on or trust our memories. When a person (without any mental disorder) has to give a presentation to their management, for example, they think, oh, I did a presentation like this last month. They remember how well it went, how happy everyone was with their performance, and use that to present with confidence this time. Each time they succeed reinstates their belief in themselves.

This is not my experience. When I have to give a presentation, I think of all the things that could go horribly wrong. I don’t remember all the positive aspects of my last presentation. And if I do, I skew the results in my mind. I take the round of applause they gave me and transform it into something negative, like telling myself they only clapped because they pitied me and the horrible performance I gave. They don’t really think I’m a good presenter. They just feel sorry for me. I’m an impostor. I’ve tricked them into thinking I do a good job when in reality I actually really suck.

I learned from my psychologist that this is the case with many schizophrenics. We cannot rely on our positive memories to push us forward. There will always be a negative cloud over us. The thing is, though, that’s not our fault. We are not thinking negative things about ourselves because those things are true. We think them because of schizophrenia. It is the disorder that fights us at every turn, telling us lies about what we can’t do.

I think many schizophrenic people will benefit from the simple knowledge of that, which is why I’m writing this. We are not actually the total losers this disorder tells us we are. It is just the disorder trying to bring us down. We have to fight against it and tell ourselves over and over, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this. We have to search out our memories of what we have survived and choose to believe them as the truth. We are not impostors. People do not think bad things about us. We are good people, doing our best to live our lives as productively and effectively as we can.

There are going to be some things that we can’t do. For example, some schizophrenics are not as high functioning as me. Some are on disability, unable to work. That is nothing to be ashamed of. There are some things I can’t do too. A lot of things, actually. That’s another thing we should forgive ourselves enough to accept. Schizophrenia fights us hard, and it’s always going to be there. It will never go away. But we can take comfort in the fact that it is not our fault that we live with this disorder, and we’re all doing great in the face of it. We are all surviving against the thing that tries so hard to knock us down, and that is something to be extremely proud of.

Just keep on living. You’re doing the best you can, and that’s what matters.

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