I’ve been sleeping more than I would prefer lately. But I have found over the years if I want to sleep more than normal, there is usually a good reason for it. I’ve learned to listen to my body and give it what is says it needs more often. Learning to live with mental illness is mainly a trial and error kind of thing. It wasn’t learned immediately. Sadly mental illness is one of those tests that is impossible to study for. I had no idea what having schizophrenia meant when I was first diagnosed almost twenty years ago. But then, there is no way I could have known just by reading some books and going to a psychiatrist. Mental illness effects everything about a life it inflicts just by the nature of the illness. And since the human brain is the most complex piece of biological machinery we have seen (at least unless we discover alien intelligences superior to our own), it is one of those we still don’t know much about.
One of the things that gives me hope, maybe not for myself so much as future generations afflicted with mental illness problems, is that we are learning more about the human brain every day. I don’t know if I’ll live to see the fruition of much of this research, but I am encouraged that there is now a push to learn this and see if we can design better treatments with fewer side effects. As much as I am appreciative of what my anti psych treatment has done for my mental state, there has been a price I had and am still having to pay for this stability.
One of the side effects of my psych treatments is that I gained a lot of weight over the years. I won’t go into exact numbers but I will say I weigh at least one hundred pounds more than I did when I was first diagnosed. Yet, I was for all purposes not functioning when I was diagnosed. I was having mental breakdowns two to three times a week, I could sleep only a couple hours a night, I wanted to spend all my time alone and just avoid people, and I couldn’t concentrate long enough to even read a single page of a book. I guess my options were I could keep my physical health but be completely dysfunctional mentally or I could regain my mental stability but have a weakened body because of it. Not optimal choices by any means. But I’m glad I opted for the better mental health. Otherwise I’d probably be dead or in prison.
Even though my physical health has declined over the years, in part because of the treatment’s side effects and the nature of the illness itself, I consider the price to be worth it. At least for me the price of losing much of my physical vitality was worth the price of keeping myself together mentally. I have also lost most interest in sex and socializing in person because of the illness. I haven’t dated in at least ten years and I don’t like going to social functions much anymore. But I guess there are always trade offs. I’m actually glad that I was not as ruled by my hormones as most younger men. It saved me much headache and heartache, especially in my late twenties and early thirties when it became obvious to me that I would never have a wife or children through no fault of my own.
I am not anti marriage or anti family. I’m quite the opposite actually. I see my brother and his wife and children as well as my cousins with their spouses and children and I see that, if done properly, family is the best thing that can happen to a person. I think it really does have a calming effect on people, young men especially, and forces people to be more long term thinkers than they normally would. I would have loved to had a wife and a couple kids with the picket fence and apple pie kind of life. But with the mental illness and the hangups involved, I know I would make a lousy husband and father. As it was I couldn’t manage a minimum wage job with my mental illness even though I was an honors graduate in high school. So the next best thing is to write about my experiences with mental illness as my purpose for my work and be a good son to my parents and a good uncle to my brother’s kids. I’m interested to see where this all leads.