Well, it’s been a few weeks on the new medication regimen and I’m finally getting back to writing. So much has happened since my last post, and at the same time, so little has really changed. There’s been a silence inside of my head for these past few weeks, a quiet that I’ve struggled with considerably. I’m not going to spend this post talking about all the things that are different about walking around all day without little people talking to you. Most people can probably imagine this would be a big transition. Over eight years of non-stop hallucinations and then all of a sudden, nothing at all. What I am going to talk about is what I’ve learned about myself. There’s so little about my life that I really understand in an unbiased and objective way. When everything you do is narrated by a bunch of snarky and nasty people, you stop forming opinions of your own about the things around you and, most importantly, the things you do. This is the crux of probably the rest of my life, discovering what I truly think and feel without the influence of my belligerent snippy companions. These are my observations this week:
I’m not always the nicest person, deep down. Sometimes, when people say things to me that are illogical, I have a tendency to judge them harshly. I’m not sure if it’s arrogance, but what I do know is that it makes me feel very much like I’ve become the people talking in my head. And I don’t like that feeling. I was always opposed to the judgmental nature of the voices, to the extent that I refused to entertain negative thoughts about what anyone did. If they were critical, I was open and welcoming. If they threatened to harm people, I was all the more kind and caring towards the real people in the equation. But now I no longer live a life of contradiction. My thoughts are my own. I have to learn to get comfortable with them and manage them. I have to open the doors, so to speak, to the diverse set of people I will encounter throughout my daily walk and accept them as they are. That’s hard when you struggle to accept who you are at the same time.
I don’t love myself. I always thought that it was the demeaning nature of the voices that left me completely dry of self-worth. Now that things are quiet, I need to start building some of that back. According to my therapist, my perfectionist nature has caused me to torture myself to a greater extent than most of her other clients. Karen doesn’t ever lie to me in therapy, and I’ve been seeing her for nearly six years, so I’m inclined to believe her when she says something drastic like that. I’m never satisfied with the work I’ve done; it could have been done better, more quickly, more efficiently, or with less waste. I’m critical of my schedule, especially the moments when I’ve got nothing planned. When there isn’t coursework or research to be done, I find my mind wandering and my focus waning. I don’t like it at all. I need to be on point all the time while at school or I feel like I’ve wasted the day. And at the end of that day, when not everything went as planned, I’m cursing myself out over it. I attack myself over little things, like dishes left dirty that my husband cleans up or having a messy desk in the grad office, and over bigger things, like the fact that I’m horribly overweight and that I’m probably a bad wife. For each of these situations I see how I “could” have improved the outcome of certain choices I made, blind to the fact that there was indeed very little I could do differently. Sending punch after punch in my own direction when I supposedly have so much to be proud of.
I can’t take compliments. I was telling a woman from one of my classes about my illness and my life after having been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia over lunch when we were planning on working on some homework problems for our nanobiology course. She was, as per usual, dumbstruck by the pervasive influence of hallucinations in my life and my ability to become a somewhat successful graduate student, the somewhat being added by me, and congratulated me on my achievements to date. I am a modest person, in general, or so it seems to everyone who casually knows me. The modesty, however, just reflects the lack of satisfaction I find in my own achievements. No matter what the occasion to celebrate, I can never really be truly happy with what I’ve done. I’m always trying to do it better than the next guy, to be smarter than everyone I know, to be the most successful scientist, hoping that someday the validation will come and I will feel truly accomplished. The fact is that validation like that will never come. I can’t be the best at everything. All I can do is be as good as I can. The more I try to sit with that idea, the more it baffles me. Why must I beat myself up over spilled milk when there are cookies and a half glass of milk still sitting on the table? Why can’t I just be proud of what I’ve done without “but” or “except” or “if only”? Like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie pop, this is something the world may never know. But right now, I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop licking. At its chocolatey core is the holy grail of self-awareness, the understanding I seek that will make all of my self-hatred and abuse dissolve away. I’ve only just started to make my way there in these past few weeks, there will be plenty of time for more progress. No reason to beat myself up, is it?
I need the people in my life more than I’d like to admit. So much of my happiness lies in my interaction with other people. I gave a reading at a wedding this past weekend of two dear friends of mine from my undergrad years at Carnegie Mellon. Mers, who was the bride, and I have a long history together and I wanted nothing more than for her day to be perfect in every way, shape, and form. And it truly was. If there were massive mistakes made on someone’s part, you never would have known it. It was very important to me to give a good reading during the ceremony and to be there to support her in any way possible. My husband also attending the wedding with me and I’m sure he felt the same way about his role. We went to the air and space museum on the way home from DC, where the wedding was held, so Peter could swoon over old jet engines and flying wings. He thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there, as did I. While we drove home, I enjoyed what is the best feeling one can feel, the joy of knowing that I made people happy in some way. Both my husband’s and newlywed friends’ happiness served to magnify my own joy exponentially I know now that I live for the betterment of those around me, both people I know and those whom I have never met. If there is indeed any satisfaction to be had in my life, it will be because I have satisfied the needs of someone else, especially the people I love most deeply.
But for now, I’m just trying to live in the moment. For an easy motivational pick-me-up, try this song. Music does wonders for the soul.
Thanks for listening.