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Accepting that you have Schizophrenia

 

© Copyright 2012 Kurt Snyder

Schizophrenia is a disease. It is a disease that cannot be prevented or completely cured. It is a biological illness, and like many illnesses, it is not your fault if you have it.

The mind relies on the underlying biology of the brain. This should be clear to you if you have ever taken illegal drugs, if you have ever used painkillers, or sleeping pills. The chemicals in these substances alter your mind. Likewise, the medication which is prescribed for schizophrenia alters your mind. It helps to improve concentration and thinking, and it helps to reduce voices, hallucinations, and stimulus overload. Schizophrenia cannot be prevented or cured by psychological methods. This means that it cannot be cured just by thought alone. It takes the action of specific beneficial chemicals to reduce its symptoms.

You are not responsible for having schizophrenia. We don't completely know what causes it, and thus we cannot take responsibility for preventing it or curing it. We shouldn't blame others or ourselves for things that are completely out of our control.

You may think that having schizophrenia means that you can't have a productive life and you can't have success. This is very far from the truth. Being productive means that you set goals and you achieve those goals. The trick to doing this is being able to recognize the abilities you have, and to use those abilities to do things. You may think that people who are very successful are people who achieve great things. And you may think that you cannot achieve great things. And if we don't achieve great things, then that means we are not worthwhile. This is because we know about people who have more ability than we have, and we assume that what they achieve in life is somehow better than what we have achieved, or that they are better people because of their abilities. But ability is a very abstract idea. It is worthwhile to think about ability and what it means for individuals and our society.

First of all, some ability is natural. The abilities of some people are not the result of their own effort. Some people have natural talent, like the ability to sing, to do mathematics, to speak other languages. The vast majority of people on this planet learn how to speak their native language before the age of 3 years old. Few would argue that this ability is acquired by intentional effort. It is acquired naturally, with very little conscious effort. Yet it is perhaps one of the greatest achievements for any individual, and it affects our whole life. But speaking is a natural ability. Do you congratulate people because they have learned how to speak? Probably not! Because they had no choice to make. It is a natural ability which we acquire with almost no effort. Yet it is a great achievement. But you don't admire this because most people can achieve this, and you compare yourself to 'most' people. You never give yourself credit for this ability. But speaking also relies on the ability to hear. But some people are born deaf, and they cannot learn to speak well like the rest of us. Do you think that they are lesser people because they don't have this ability? Probably not, because this ability is not under their control. That is why you shouldn't think less of them. These people have other abilities which help them in their lives. They adapt because they use the other abilities that they do have, and they don't dwell on the ability they don't have. What I am trying to say is that people have natural abilities. There will always be people that have more natural ability than you have, and there will always be people that have less. Likewise, there will always be people who are smarter than you, and there will always be people who are dumber. These are natural qualities in ourselves over which we have little control. There is no logical reason why we should think less of ourselves for something that is not in our control.

When we think about ability, we must ask 'What kind of ability?'. There is no person who has the 'most' ability. We all have different abilities in different areas of life. Sometimes people will be better than you at certain things, but at other things you will be better than them. The way we achieve success is by choosing to do things that are within our abilities, no matter what those abilities are, and getting those things done. This is being productive. Your life will be productive if you set reasonable goals and you then achieve those goals. You will have success. The trick though is to understand your own abilities. If you continually try to do things that are beyond your ability, you will fail repeatedly throughout life, and you will end up achieving nothing. This doesn't mean that we should only do things that we know we can do, while avoiding things we are not sure we can do. Sometimes, stretching ourselves when we are not sure whether we can do it or not can help us to grow, learn, and improve our ability. If you have success.... great! But if you fail, don't worry about it! Failing teaches us our boundaries. Pay attention to your failures and successes, because they will teach you what you can do. I recommend doing things you know you can do most of the time, and doing things you're not sure about only some of the time. However, always keep safety in mind. Do things that are safe, and that won't physically hurt you if you fail.

Having schizophrenia does not mean that you can't be productive. You can achieve things in your life. But realize that most great achievements in life don't come quickly. There is a saying that goes 'Overnight success usually takes about 15 years'. You can have a productive life by taking small steps toward your goals. Achieving small steps over time leads to huge achievements in the future. It is within your power to lead a productive life. 'Having schizophrenia' does not equal 'you are worthless'. You have value and you can achieve good things in this world.

Remember that your definition of 'great' or 'worthwhile' is all in your mind. There is no absolute truth about what 'great' means, or about what 'worthwhile' means. Everyone has a different opinion about 'great' and 'worthwhile'. Whether or not you have done great or worthwhile things relies only upon your own judgement. If you are telling yourself that you haven't done things that are worthwhile, your own opinion is all that is important. And you can change your opinion.

Your opinion may be that the things you can do are things that anybody can do. I ask, 'What's wrong with that?'. What's wrong with doing things that anybody can do? They need to be done, don't they? Perhaps you are only able to mop floors, or clean windows, or take out the trash. There are some people who can't do those things. Some people may call these jobs 'maintenance of the world'. We really do need people to do these types of jobs. They enable other people with different skills to do other jobs. Someone needs to do the easier jobs so that people with greater abilities can do the harder jobs. Don't fool yourself by thinking that these easier jobs aren't important. These jobs are really important. And if you can do them, you can be proud if you do them to the best of your ability. And if you can't do these jobs, there are other things you can find that you are able to do. If you need help deciding what kind of job to do, ask your friends and family what they think you are capable of, and try those things.

However, just as there are many people in the world with many different types of skills, you will find that people with schizophrenia also have many different types of jobs. Having schizophrenia doesn't limit the types of jobs you can do, because our abilities as individuals vary greatly. Don't think that because you have schizophrenia that you are limited to certain types of jobs. The important thing is to be honest with yourself about what you are capable of as a person, know what your abilities are, and then try to match your job with your abilities. You may find that small achievements every week can be very rewarding. Always focus on your successes in life, no matter how small you think they are, but try to learn from your failures by evaluating honestly why those things were failures. Your doctor, your family, and friends can often provide a lot of insight and recommendations if you are open to their suggestions.

Some people with schizophrenia can't have jobs that pay money. This still doesn't mean that you are not worthwhile. There are jobs that you can do for yourself, for your family and friends. Perhaps you can take out the trash at home, clean the bathroom. Perhaps you can simply help to take care of the house you live in. These are also important jobs, and they need to be done. If you can't have a job that earns you money, don't worry about it!

When you attempt to do jobs you haven't done before, you may fail. But failures aren't really failures; they are only lessons about what our true abilities are. If you have dreamed about certain things, and you have failed at those things, or you have never succeeded at those things, then it is not helpful to feel ashamed or to hate yourself. It is simply time to change your dreams. Choose dreams that are realistic.

Quite often, as people with schizophrenia, we may have dreamed that we would change the world, or that we were important to the entire world. Now that we have a better understanding of reality and our illness, we feel less important and less worthwhile than we did when we were sickest. The opposite is actually the truth. Now that we have a better understanding of reality, we are more capable and we can achieve far more than we could when we were sick. We are more valuable to the world and we are more worthwhile than we were at any time during our psychosis. The reality is that our recovery, even if it is not a cure, enables us to be better people. Psychosis prevents us from achieving things. Acceptance of our illness allows us to be happier, and awareness of our symptoms helps us to be more productive because we can manage the symptoms more effectively.

There are some benefits that you might get from your schizophrenic experience, which you may never get otherwise. In some ways, you may become wiser about the world, about personal relationships, and about life in general. This has certainly happened to me. For me, I became wiser over a number of years by deep reflection on my experiences.

Knowing that I have had serious personal problems, I am much more accepting of other people and their problems. Knowing that many people helped me, even though I didn't appreciate their help at that time, has led me to want to help others in ways I never did before. I am more generous and caring about others, and far less selfish. Furthermore, I have gained the insight that things aren't always what they seem. My mind is much more flexible, I am far less 'convinced' about certain things people claim are true. I understand that my instincts may be wrong and that we shouldn't come to conclusions so quickly, without reflecting on them. Relationships and social interactions aren't black and white. They are gray. I know now that when you are convinced something is true, that is often the time when you are most wrong. We should reflect on the evidence that is available about that so-called 'truth', and we shouldn't judge important situations without careful consideration. I also have learned that there are many coincidences in this life, and that sometimes the 'evidence' is not really evidence, it is just a random convergence of events. Also, after long examination of my own delusions, I am much more capable of detecting when other people have delusions-things they believe without proper evidence or careful thought.

I am much more capable of planning my life now. In the past, I couldn't stick with the goals I set for myself, my days were erratic and chaotic. Now I am able to set goals and achieve them. I am much more productive (by far) than I have ever been in the past.

In the past, I was disrupting the lives of other people. Now I am improving the lives of other people. I am a better friend, a better son, and a better co-worker. This change of events is perhaps the most encouraging and allows me to look to the future with anticipation and hope.

Lastly, something I like to say is that 'We are all very important, but not as important as we would like to think!'. To me, this means that we all have value in this world, but people who think very highly of themselves are delusional. The world is a huge place, with 7 billion people. You may think that some people are very important, like the president of the United States. But how is the president affecting your daily life right now? You may think that people in history were very important, like Albert Einstein, or George Washington. But if you look at the grand picture, even they are not that important. Billions of people have lived and died, never knowing anything significant about these famous people, except perhaps their name. What is the value in that? How is that important? You are far more important to your friends, family, and coworkers than any of these famous people are or can be. You can certainly make a difference in the lives of those people around you. You have great value in that respect. Don't forget that. Having schizophrenia is a disability, but you have many other abilities and qualities that make you worthwhile. Don't forget that either. Use your positive abilities and your positive qualities to do good things. Because you can. Accept your illness, but don't measure your value by it.

Kurt Snyder

Email me: kurt@kurtsnyder.net. Please use the subject line ’SchizoWorld Special Help’ in your email.

 

They Say I have Schizophrenia      Home Page      Table of Contents      Recovery from Schizophrenia

 

© Copyright 2012 Kurt Snyder