I’ve been sick on and off for a few years now. I dealt with hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, depression, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts. You name it. I have Schizoaffective Disorder, which is Bipolar Schizophrenia, as well as OCD, and Social Anxiety Disorder. It sounds like a lot, but I’m a pretty normal person besides a few mood swings, panic attacks, and some crying. You wouldn’t know from looking at me that I have two of the most serious mental disorders someone can have. If there is a debate about whether Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder is worse, well, I lucked out. I have both.
It wasn’t until I was hospitalized for a psychotic breakdown (severe hallucinations, delusions, and self-harm) that I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. That was Spring of 2015. It’s taken over a year for me to come to terms with my illnesses and find the right medication. I’ve been through individual counseling, group counseling, peer counseling, faith-based counseling, experimental emotional workshops, even career counseling (can’t keep a job). I was at the hospital a lot last year. I could talk about it forever. I feel like it’s all I do talk about and people are tired of it. It’s hard not to talk about something that was cloaked over my life like a dark cloud for years. It’s even therapeutic to talk about it, after hiding it for so long. But I’m tired of it. And I think everybody is else, too. It’s time for me to move on.
Because I’m better. We finally found the right medication. I’m engaged, living on my own, and I’m healthy and happy. I still have trouble. I have social anxiety, so it’s hard to make friends. It’s been impossible (so far) to keep a part-time job because of the stressful work environments associated with jobs people my age usually can get, like in retail or the restaurant business. I’ve had eight jobs in the past two years. I was either fired or quit. I like to think I quit all of them, but technically, I stopped showing up for some of them, so that means I was fired. I was disappointed in myself for a long time.I’m too sensitive, too anxious, too intense. I take things too seriously. I have trouble taking criticism, even if it’s meant well. I have low self-esteem. I don’t really know who I am. I‘m a disaster. Who would want to hire me? I thought. But the thing is, I’m really just like every other young adult now. I can’t blame the mistakes I make or the chances I don’t take on my illness anymore. Because I’m better. And that’s a good thing. It’s a scary thing not to have that crutch anymore, but it’s good. I need to stop making excuses for myself.
And sure, maybe I’m a little different from your average girl. My mind works a little differently. Sometimes I think my boyfriend is made of plastic, so I have to touch his face until I’m convinced he’s real. Sometimes I think I have my own TV show, and I make faces into the invisible camera. Sometimes I think potatoes are rats, and I freak out, hiding the potatoes so they can’t hurt me. It’s weird, and I’m lucky to have a boyfriend that talks me through it. I’m lucky he’s not scared of me or laughs at me because I’m a little eccentric. Ultimately though, those are mostly harmless delusions that pass with time. And they’ve been happening less and less. So, it’s time to give myself a break. I need to stop hating myself for being different.
And okay, I’m not this bubbly, outgoing girl as much as I wish I was. I’m just not. And that’s okay. I don’t need to blame my personality on my illness. And it’s okay that I don’t have a job right now. I’m contributing to society through my relationships with friends and family, as a consumer, and a creator. I cook, I write, I do crafts, I exercise, I hang out with friends. I’m putting myself out into the universe in my own unique way, and the universe is responding with friends and opportunities and acknowledgment. I mean, yeah, I don’t have a job, but so what? I’m young. I don’t need to take myself, life, or writing too seriously. This is my hobby. Why don’t I give myself a pat on the back for even keeping up with my blog, instead of beating myself up for not having a million followers. I just started! I just started this blog. I just started this life. I’m so young. Why do I compare myself to people who are middle-aged with careers and families? I’m sure they were just as lost as I am when they were my age.
My illness is no longer controlling my life. I don’t have a stressful job. And I can’t afford to go to school right now. I was pretty bummed about all this free time I have, but maybe it’s a good thing. For one, it leaves me with very few things to worry about. And why is it such a bad thing for me to just live my life? I was dealt a blank card. I can do anything I want right now. Money isn’t an issue. I’m not a mother. I’m not even a wife yet. I’m just August. I can finally be just me, instead of the sad, angry girl who can’t see past her illness. I’m better. I’m better. I’m better.
I’m better now. So, just chill out, inner voice. I don’t need to rush into anything. I don’t need to decide who I am right here, right now. I can just watch TV, and write, and cook new things, and figure out who I want to be. I have been given the chance to live without my illness being in the forefront of my life. I have no excuse not to live my life to the fullest, and be happy. And stop with the excuses. You are in charge of your own happiness. You are in control of your life. You are well, finally. So why not just enjoy it?
I think I will.
August Pfizenmayer is the founder of Survival is a Talent. She is a freelance writer, blogger, and mental illness advocate. She loves reading, sweets, and warm weather. She writes confessional poetry, personal essays, and articles. Her poetry was published in the 2014 edition of Georgia State’s Undergraduate Art and Literary Journal called Underground. One of her current projects is a collection of prose poetry available on Wattpad. On April 11th, the next volume of The i’Mpossible Project will be available for pre-order with her story about life with schizophrenia featured in it. It will be in stores November 2017. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.