Embracing My Schizophrenia

There’s a man who stands on my front lawn every morning. Well. Not a man. My hallucination of a man.

The first time he showed up, he scared me. I thought he was an actual human being standing on my property, staring at me. I started to get up from the table to grab my phone, lock the door, whatever, but as I moved and maintained eye contact, he vanished. Poofed into thin air.

“Ah,” I said to myself. “Not a real person.” I put the phone down and went back to writing my to-do list. Within 15 minutes, I had forgotten about him, but the next day, he was back again.

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Since then, he’s been there nearly every morning. I don’t mind him. In fact, I have grown to love him. He’s a visible signal from my brain, a sign that I’m awake and ready to write. He’s a yellow light on my mental stoplight. He means I’m in the in-between stage: sick enough to have hallucinations, but not sick enough to forget that they’re fake. In other words, he represents my daily reality.
He’s there waiting for me, every morning, and I love him. Not romantically; it’s not like that. I love him because he is a part of me and part of my world. I love him the way I loved my brother when I found out he was stealing my cigarettes when we were teenagers. I love him the way I loved my dog when she ate my new heels before I even got a chance to wear them. Do those things make me happy? Not particularly. But they’re real, and they’re there, and they’re fundamentally important parts of my life, and I love my brother and my dog and my hallucination.

I like using the possessive pronoun with my hallucinations. I used to not. In the hospital or in outpatient treatment, I’d say “I had a hallucination” or “The hallucination did this.” I can’t remember anyone ever asking me to own my hallucinations. My hallucinations, my delusions, my clanging banging thought disorder. How are they anything but mine?

But I’m not encouraged to own them, accept them, or even acknowledge them. This runs counter to the typical therapist tenets. Nearly all therapists tell you to accept the fact you have a mental illness. Few therapists encourage you to accept your hallucinations. No one tells you to love them.

In dialectical behavior therapy, they teach you a skill called radical acceptance. Radical acceptance means that you understand you can’t change some things. Instead of beating yourself up about it, you radically accept that yes, this part of your life is shitty, then you look for ways to be happy. Sneak your happiness around it or on top of it or through the cracks in it instead of trying to move the whole boulder.

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The therapists give you so much support when you’re radically accepting something that falls into their predetermined criteria. “I have to radically accept that my sister is a drunk,” you might say, sniffling tears. “I have to take steps to put up boundaries and protect myself because I can’t help her. I can’t change her.” They pat you on the back for this.

I’ve radically accepted a lot. My rape, my illness, my mother. And my hallucinations.

The thing is, though, when you say, “Yes, I have hallucinations, and I radically accept that I always will,” this is seen as giving up.

“Don’t say that,” say your friends.

“We’ll try you on this medication,” say the doctors.
What is this great divide? Maybe this is the split mind of schizophrenia: I am encouraged to accept that I have the illness in the general, but not the particular. Fighting schizophrenia is noble; sitting at my kitchen table and nodding at my man on the lawn is bad. It’s crazy, or worse, it’s lazy.

I am only supposed to look at that man on my front lawn with revulsion or fear. But how is that fair? My hallucination is a part of me. I refuse to start my morning by looking outside at myself and hating it. I refuse to spend any part of my day trying to deny my own reality to better fit someone else’s one-size-fits-all sense of stability.

There is a man who stands on my front lawn. He is my hallucination. And I love him.


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Superphrenic is a writer, editor, gamer, and schizophrenia activist. She has published one book, House Full of Insects, about her experiences in the Girl, Interrupted psychiatric hospital. Super is also working on Ruby Future, the first and only website by schizophrenics, for schizophrenics. Say hi to her on Twitter and watch her fail at games on Twitch.


11 thoughts on “Embracing My Schizophrenia

  1. You are quite right about that split between accepting the reality the illness, but not the reality of the experiences. As a therapist, I had some conversations with clients about their hallucinations or delusions, always being careful not to “encourage the symptom.” That meant (though I’ve only come to understand it since retirement) that. for example. in the case of voices they were talked about, but not talked to. I don’t know whether any of those voices would have been willing to engage in some way with an “outsider”. What I do know is that the attempt to try that would not have been an acceptable thing to put in a case note. Thank you for an excellent ariticle.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are a beautiful writer and wise person. I absolutely love your perspective on schizophrenia. I’ve been dealing with a diagnosis of Borderline and have had to radically accept many of the same things as you. For over a year, I completely denied the diagnosis because I thought that was easier than facing it. But when I came to terms with Borderline as a part of me, my symptoms dramatically decreased. I would be honored if you checked out my blog, I write about my DBT program and what I’m learning. Thanks for this wonderfully written blog!

    Like

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