This is Part II of my story. I have discussed Part I, my story up until my diagnosis previously.
In a certain manner of my thinking, my life ended in January of 2000. I say this because I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. My family doctor treated me for depression, but referred me to a psychiatrist.
For the first time, I started to be honest with what was happening. He put me on the fun things that are called anti-psychotics (or neuroleptics). He then sent me back to school at Brock University.
It was an unmitigated disaster.
The anti-psychotics were strong. They made me very tired. I was sleeping 12-14 hours a day. More to the point, I simply wasn’t ready to start learning the coping skills I would need. I failed some courses. I struggled. I gave up.
It was too much for me.
My psychiatrist told me that I should go to college (IE seek a non-undegraduate diploma) and become a computer repairman. I did not like this.
To be fair, he only saw me troubled, paranoid and sick. He had not seen what I was before. But even sick and tired and still incoherent, I remembered. That’s the curse of my memory. I knew what I had once been. I knew what I was. The piece of me that was still living knew the difference.
I started experiencing extreme negative symptoms. I became agoraphobic and didn’t really want to leave the house. My days consisted of sleeping for 14 hours and then moving to the couch. I wasn’t really living at this point. Simply existing.
I was awash in self-pity and self-loathing. I thought so often–when I could think–how unfair my life was. How much it sucked to be me. How I didn’t deserve to be a schizophrenic because I had done absolutely nothing wrong.
My life was in some ways I would imagine hell like. Trapped in a cold, dark place with no one that I could feel caring about me. My friends were moving on. My parents, my brother and my family still cared about me, but I still felt alone and afraid.
I used to be afraid to meet people that knew me because I had shown such promise as a youth. To see me reduced to, well, this existence… the look in people’s eyes said it all.
This was perhaps the darkest time of my life. The saddest part of the whole thing was that I didn’t even realize how lucky I was. My family loved me. I was safe and while I had thoughts of suicide, I was not really a danger to myself or others.
Now here, in the darkest places my life had ever been, something happened that was rather miraculous. I had thought my life story had become one of tragedy. Neil the schizophrenic. The smart, silly kid who had his bright future washed away by a mental illness. Schizo.
The darkest of places can always be illuminated by the faintest of lights. In darkness, lost, afraid, alone I found that hope isn’t at all faint. In something that might approach a level of divine intervention, I had a revelation that changed my life.
I was at the moment, stuck on a couch. I was frustrated that it appeared to be my fate the rest of my life. I still had fleeting moments of intelligence,though my thoughts weren’t always with me and I was so very tired all the time.
I had fallen so very far and so very hard. I looked up from the darkness and thought that to climb that would be impossible. So I kept shouting to myself that I didn’t deserve it, that it was so unfair that given my response so far I might spend the rest of my natural life existing like this.
The thing was that, in a very private, very personal moment that I realized was that maybe that this was my fate, but if I felt I didn’t deserve this, if I felt that I didn’t want this to be my fate, then I could at the very least choose to fight it, choose not to accept it and show that I truly didn’t deserve such a thing.
It seems kinda funny writing this because it sounds to some extent so trivial, but in one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life–and with my illness I have had to do quite a few very hard things–I chose to get off that couch and start my slow, painful climb back up to reality. I chose more pain. I chose blood, sweat and tears. But in doing so I chose hope over despair, which was one of the first of many miracles to come.
To be continued.