As lucky as my life circumstances have been, at times, I wonder, Why me?
Why did I develop mental illness? What did I do to deserve developing PTSD as a child, depression as a teenager, and Schizoaffective disorder as young adult?
Indeed, mental illness has shaped much of who I am. It seems to have followed me wherever I go. Luckily, I am well treated with excellent medications and stellar professionals. But for me to get to this point of finding the “perfect balance” of treatment… Dare I say, it took twenty years for the doctors to get it right. And in that time period… I fell hard. I would never want to live those years of my life again.
See… That is also something that eludes me. Various people report that their childhood years were full of bliss and play, and that children are free of the responsibilities that affect adults. Perhaps traveling back in time to look at a fond memory… The prospect seems an appealing visit, dare I say for most.
But for me, it is not.
Observe: For as far back as I can remember, I recall a certain cloud of doom always permeating myself. As a kindergartener, I remember readings at school, loneliness due to no friendships and a home where my father yelled scarily.
Regarding that cloud, I always used to think that it was just “me.” I could never escape the depression… It might have disappeared for a spell as I read books by Judy Blume, or watched Care Bears on TV, or when I listened to classical music… But always, I’d return to the sadness. Perhaps the last thing I felt each day, as I fell asleep at night… was a feeling of safety and escape.
Only when I was twenty-seven, did this cloud lift. That was when I started Clozapine. This drug is considered a last resort for treating schizophrenia. It affects the white blood cell count, and so I must get my blood checked every four weeks. But despite its risks, I must say this drug is an absolute miracle in my life…
You know that cloud I was talking about? Guess what? Clozapine made it disappear. Now, for the first time in my life, I realize that depression is NOT a part of who I am. Underneath all that negativity that followed me all those years, was a beautiful flower of a person, patiently waiting for the storm to pass. A storm that lasted for twenty-seven years.
A blessing, that the storm lifted after all.
I am confident in saying that I am happy now. Truly, the feeling of happiness is one I recommend to many.
The interesting part is… I don’t think I’m alone, when I say that my mental illness affected me for my whole life. I have encountered many a person who has… perhaps a cautious outlook on life, where they make excuses why they can’t do certain things. There are also complainers, who seem to think they have to complain in order to be heard. Or maybe a princess-type, who always has to have her way.
I don’t intend to diminish the personhood of people with the above dysfunctions. But I also have observed that these said people are unable to change their ways, often because they have never known themselves to be any other than what they are, and have always been.
And I too was such for a long time. What was I? Bitter, sarcastic, distrustful, hateful and envious of those who had a reason to smile. I blamed the happy for being superficial, shallow and vacuous.
But now I have risen from the ashes of my affliction. And perhaps because of such, perhaps I no longer need to view my past with such negativity.
But what can I recall then, if things were as bad as I say? Perhaps, I could recall happy moments that I previously pushed aside.
I remember coping with my loneliness at school by playing Chinese Jump Rope with second graders, I being in the fifth grade. My classmates made fun of me, but I still had my fun.
I remember reading books voraciously. At my grandmother’s house, I’d lock myself in the bathroom and read, sitting on the refreshingly cool tile floor. She’d call me for dinner, and I would beg her to “just let me finish the chapter!”
I remember having the best next door neighbor during the summer between kindergarten and first grade. Every morning at 6 AM, I’d knock on her door and go in. Her older sister then served us breakfast: a sandwich filed with Pillsbury chocolate icing with the crusts cut off. Then we’d run around in her backyard, or perhaps we played with our Polly Pockets, a trendy toy at the time.
And I remember my mother, always there for me. Every time I ended up in the mental hospital, she’d visit me every single day, maybe bringing me a nice coffee. If you add up all the time I’ve spent in hospitals, it would total to twenty-seven weeks.
Indeed, there are many blessings in my life. These days, I’d rather dig into my past to find the hidden light, instead of repeating the same negativity to myself, like some broken record automatically spewing an inescapable mantra.
I choose now to turn off that record. Instead, I’ll sing my own song.