Monday, June 5, 2017

My Mental Health Journey: Mirroring Success Through the Eyes of a Relationship

My Mental Health Journey: Mirroring Success Through the Eyes of a Relationship
A Column by J. Alfreda
Success is Obtained by Letting Go of the Toxic Pieces
Our relationship has been strained at best, a really rocky road. It’s a love/hate relationship that borders on psychosis. But, in the final analysis, I am the one who knows her best. She is the closest person to me. She is me.
There was a pouring of rain on our already strained relationship. You see, I have schizophrenia, bipolar type, which onset at age 20. Many voices and much pain have infiltrated my mind over the past 35 years. I have just arrived at a place of readiness to accept this illness as mine.
You might possibly think it’s strange that it took me so long, but I have always thought of my illness as another entity, an alter-ego, an arch nemesis. I refused to see myself as a whole person. My war had an enemy though I couldn’t see that the enemy was unintentionally me. Success would start with forging my “selves” and attaining as much peace as possible. 
Schizophrenia is a different realm of reality. You realize what you go through intermittently. But, when you are there, it is real. It is marked by delusions, extreme paranoia, suicidal thoughts, steep highs and lulls of depression in my case.
In the beginning, it was like having my life, mind and soul hollowed out and strewn across the four corners of the Earth in scraps, feeling like I had to travel to each site and retrieve them piece by piece in a zombie state. The disease alienates you from yourself.
Schizophrenia is a useless, evil being who can’t stand in a church for fear of bursting into flames. It is a pimp that bids actions contrary to your will, turning you inside-out. That is, until you fix it.
I walked around in this nightmarish, delusional state for 24 years before a medication was created that I would respond to and not put me in the conveyor-belt-shuffle-mode.
When I was 20, I was sure that by now I would have an engineering firm, a great home, kids, and the whole nine yards, but that hasn’t been in the plan for me. I have barely been able to take care of myself. I did manage to finish college, though on the revolving door plan; one quarter in school, the next in the hospital and so on. I changed my major from chemical engineering to journalism because after the first break, with the tranquilizers I was taking (that was all they had for schizophrenia back then), I found I could not comprehend my coursework anymore. I was in my junior year before the break.
You can imagine why I would rebel against this entity. It has undermined my every opportunity and effort to gain success, but it is a part of me and I have resolved to make myself whole.
After some soul-searching prompts, my first stop was in the gratitude market. You can’t ask the Universe for more without thanking It for what you already have. It just wouldn’t be polite. I bought a gratitude journal in which I write daily those things I am grateful for: past, present and future.
The little things that I appreciate and make me happy fascinate me the most. In my first entry I always thank God for “waking me up this morning clothed in my right mind,” a phrase my grandfather used to say in his prayers, which has taken on a new meaning for me. You can guess why.
I’ve also created a gratitude board somewhat akin to a vision board, visually celebrating all of the things that make me happy, appreciative and that I am thankful for. It has things as frivolous as vintage clothing and jewelry, as marvelous as a multi-hued sunset or a cobalt night sky, and as welcoming as family and all that it entails. It helps me to embrace the positives of my life.
Some would say I lost everything in the deal. It may seem that way from one perspective if viewing my past, but it is far from the truth. In picking up the pieces for the umpteenth time, I discovered me, the whole of myself. I am coming from a natural place, a place of gratitude and love─not someone else’s definition of who I am, or even who I think I am; it is a place of true character.
My true character has been revealed by letting go of the toxic pieces and embracing the positive aspects of my true self. This is how I define success.

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