Who am !?
Posted by ToniBryan
28th Jul 2011

Who am I? To which the reply I would give is that 'I am the total sum of all my differing personalities.' I'm not a schizophrenic although I suffer from psychosis on a now regular basis. And if we look even deeper I'm no different to anyone is able-bodied, free from recurring bouts of depression, critical stress and psychosis, yet such maladies are peculiarly mine and ones I shall never be free from.

Perhaps I am different from many, because my world view is governed by the conditions of my mind at various times. Yet my needs are no different to anyone else, and for others to see me they would see that my outer shell is recognisably the same as theirs. True, I might be a little on the heavier side, but then I'm thinner than others. I am perceived by my outer shell, no judgement is passed when I am seen, other than the immediate impression I make, which is nothing more than a corruption of values we all ridiculously suffer from.

Am I disabled because of the way my mind works, 'no' is the answer. I 'understand' and 'accept' that I have medical conditions which need treatment. Others may view me as disabled, they may enact laws to protect my right to be a human being, they may make allowance for the occasional vagaries of my mind, they may give me extra help to survive in an ever stressful, corrupt and bitter world. Yet none of them, or few of them, either understand and accept that I'm mentally ill. They cannot understand because they know subconsciously they are closer to me than I to them. They cannot really accept, because then they leave themselves open, to become struck down by the 'devil', metaphorically burnt at the stake. The weight of history is a burdensome 'beast', for it is a monster borne out of ignorance, and still it pervades perniciously and distorts the otherwise 'normal' minds of those free of any mental illness.

But whatever the perception that may be individually held, and the fairness of 'positive' discrimination favoured by law, morality and good sense, still there remains the spectre of irrational fear caused by the ignorance of the unknown. No matter the good intentions of actions taken, these are underpinned by the lack of visual confirmation of an ailment. An unexplained act, a rejection of the 'norm', behaviour inconsistency, an irrational belief, all these, singularly or combined, sit uncomfortably with those who are 'blessed' and without a 'troubled' mind. There is no greater comfort in the blessed to apply 'rules' and 'values' to something unseen and greatly misunderstood.

Equally, I am as much to 'blame' for those reluctant to accept, because I refused for many years to accept I was ill. I couldn't possibly accept my mind was troubled or suffering from an unidentified malaise. My anger great because people didn't view my world as I did. Theirs an arrogance, bound by rules that made no sense to my daily life. They 'rejected' me as I rejected them. Socially I was inept, bullied, taunted for my shortcomings. I remained an outsider whether in the family or outside of it. I refused to 'conform' no matter the hardship, the tears or the aggressive nature. Why should I accept I may be ill, when their eyes are tightly closed and any conversation of a 'troubled mind' swept under the carpet and ignored.

Along the path and journey of life, there is a 'dark place' to rest, to find succour, to validate my existence and to prove the world I'm a part of is 'anti-me'. I drew strength from my difference and I plumbed to the depths because I refused to accept I was a part of a life that wanted no part of me. I grew to accept that my 'beast', the visits by shapes, hallucinations, the conversations with trees, the animals watching over me, and they encouraged my excesses, my lack of sympathy or empathy, and they provided the comfort I longed for. 'Real life' was unfulfilling, relationships difficult and without reward. Trust was just another word in the dictionary, feelings of persecution frighteningly real and pervasive. But still my friendly 'demons' were better companions.

In time you slowly accept something is 'wrong'. You cannot ignore the overwhelming presence they hold in your dysfunctional life. You begin to search for answers no matter the negativity you find. Nothing in the beginning makes sense. Your mind struggles to help, why should it help as it's far easier to listen to your beast, but instinctually the desire for peace grows relentlessly. But such peace is a foolhardy quest, every thing you've learnt is questioned and refuted by the poisonous desire of your beast. The more my mind fought them, the more ill I became, the struggle endless and seemingly without end. But end it does because you find the key.

Finally you learn to accept the world of psychiatry and psychology still remains in its infancy and for every step forward, many steps are taken backwards. Medical diagnosis improves even though it took forty years to diagnose my depression, my psychosis the same, my inability to deal with stress the same. Only when you accept there is help, there is support, there is hope however incomplete. You can work, even though many cannot understand you have to work in a way different to others. But the story of my travelled path is unfinished, as it is for all those with a mind uniquely different to those around you. The peace I desire is bound to acceptance, in the same way others must accept my 'difference'. The bad years have receded but not gone away. My hallucinations will remain, and even last week I was visited by a 'dog', but I'm at peace with them. I need my daily medication even though it curtails some of my 'desires'.

When viewed dispassionately I am an unknown entity, faceless, another human mingling with the crowd. I pass through life largely unseen, non-threatening. I'm happier now than I've ever been, but such happiness is dependant upon my acceptance of who I am, and those others resisting the fear that comes with entering a world that is strange, weird, dark and all too close to a world better avoided.

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