I wish I had a physical illness.
I know anyone reading that single line would think of me as ungrateful and just plain crazy. And that’s slightly true.
When I was 17 years old, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a type of schizophrenia combined with a mood disorder; in my case, bi-polar disorder. Nine years down the line, my life is finally recovering and a certain level of normalcy has been attained, but the black cloud of schizophrenia still lingers. The absolutely worst part of it? I cannot tell anyone, and nobody could tell looking at me which makes me think sometimes that physical illnesses is more acceptable, more ‘real’ as compared to psychiatric conditions. Even doctors, for example a neurologist I once saw for a hand tremor, told me to “get over it“, that “it’s a part of life” and that “everyone has phases“. “You can’t stay on medicine forever“, is how he admonished me.
I’ve felt like screaming because who the hell wants to be on medicine? The rampant weight gain, lack of concentration, trembling hands are just a few of the side-effects. I would gladly go off the medicines but it’s not possible. Staying away from them gives me blinding headaches.
Backing up a bit, what exactly is Schizophrenia (SZ)? It is a serious, chronic psychiatric condition that makes it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Symptoms for SZ are basically categorized into positive symptoms and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are what a schizophrenic person experiences that regular people do not, such as auditory and visual hallucinations. Negative symptoms are what regular people experience but schizophrenics don’t, such as lack of concentration, lethargy, abnormal thinking patterns.
The technicalities of the disorder may sound odd, but the experience is terrifying. Being afraid of something other people say don’t even exist is a scenario straight out of a horror movie. You begin to doubt everything and everyone. I am still not sure of the current reality, my mind kind of floats here and there, and I have to force myself to pay attention to the simplest of tasks, even walking in a straight line. I guess it’s a lot like being drunk.
I used to have many friends, at least until I was diagnosed. When I made the mistake of sharing my story each and every one of them fell away . While some of them could not understand, others could not handle, there were those who were afraid, and sadly too many thought I was a liar.
I wish I had a physical illness, so people would believe that I was unwell. If I had diabetes I could show my anti-anxiety medicine as insulin. If I had asthma I could explain an ‘episode’ as an asthma attack. If I had hypertension I could portray my depression as low blood pressure. In no way am I trying to belittle anyone with a chronic condition. I truly empathize and sympathize with others fighting a chronic beast. I simply wish to fight side-by-side, because I too fight a chronic disease, and I do not want to hide my battle or be forced to sugar-coat the beast I fight.
I wish I had a physical illness, a visible opponent, and not schizophrenia where my own mind is my opponent.