Even for Those Who Suffer From Schizophrenia, Life is Precious
By Rebecca Chamaa
I recently read an article titled “Mental illness haunts countless Americans” from the July 14, 2015 Camas-Washougal Post-Record, a state of Washington periodical, where the author said that schizophrenia was “a fate often worse than death.” It turns out the author’s son has schizophrenia. I was so offended by that one statement that commenting on it seemed senseless, but if that author really believes that, and other people really believe that, then I need to step up and write my truth.
Schizophrenia is hard. I win some of my battles with it and I lose some of my battles with it, but I keep on fighting. I want to keep on fighting. I want to keep on challenging myself to do the best I can with a severe mental illness. I have attempted suicide twice and twice my life was saved by complete strangers. I have no words for what those strangers did. The words grateful and thankful will never be enough.
I am happy to be alive. Yes, paranoia, psychosis, social anxiety and panic attacks are difficult to live with, but have you ever seen a sunset over the Pacific, or fallen asleep on your loved one’s chest, or had your spouse kiss you goodbye in the morning as you can smell the coffee they made for you still brewing?
I could write for days about the things in my life which are worth seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching or experiencing. The scent of jasmine can transport me back to Cairo, Egypt and the time I spent there in school before I knew anything about schizophrenia.
It is true that being psychotic is one of the scariest things that has ever happened to me. It can only be described as living your most terrifying nightmares, and it has happened to me repeatedly, and it may happen again at any time. Even knowing that, I wouldn’t give up a minute of the joy, love, discovery, creativity, and life that is possible to take part in when symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia take a rest.
I have symptoms of my illness everyday, and some days are more than a little difficult, but hearing people say that they think living with schizophrenia is worse than death means that they believe there is no value to my life.
Tell my husband there is no value to my life. Tell my family there is no value to my life. Tell my friends and nieces and nephews there is no value to my life.
Just because the author of that article doesn’t want to walk the road I walk, doesn’t mean I don’t want to walk it. I do want to walk it. I want to walk it with everything inside of me. I want to walk it into old age. I want to walk it holding the hand of the man I love. I want to walk it with a passion for all life has to offer.
I have paranoid schizophrenia and I want to be alive as long as possible and experience that first sip of coffee along with the rising sun as many mornings as I am able. If you can’t understand that, then you don’t understand people who have the courage to take the good with the bad and keep moving in the direction of life. Life is worth living even with a severe mental illness. Trust me, I have one.
Pullout: “...hearing people say that they think living with schizophrenia is worse than death means that they believe there is no value to my life.”