This week is one of the best I’ve had in a long time. No, I didn’t win the lottery, or get a surprise inheritance, or even get a piece of really good news. I am happy because, for the first time in 6 months, I have gone an entire week being able to study whenever I want to. It was amazing, and I am so terribly happy. I won’t lie, I even started to tear up with joy when I finished reading that first chapter.
But now, of course, I’m sure I’ve confused some of you. After all, since when is studying worth celebration? Well, when you’ve been through what I have, it’s worth a full on party. You see, about eight months ago, I had a problem. That problem was that I simply could not study. I am not talking about lack of focus or not wanting to study. I literally could not understand the words I tried to read, my textbooks suddenly became unreadable tomes before my eyes, the words indecipherable. I would try to do math problems and instead end up sitting there staring at the paper for thirty minutes, unable to do something so simple as adding two numbers together. Chapters of reading piled on as I was unable to keep up, unable to understand the words on the page in front of me.
This went on for hours a day, every day, as I struggled in vain to get my mounting schoolwork done. Nothing I did worked, and I felt useless and stupid for my perceived failure as a student. In addition, voices haunted me at night. When things were at their worst, I found myself frozen, immobile, and thoughtless, a state called catatonia. Even with these frightening symptoms though, the inability to process was still the one I found most troubling.
After weeks of being this way, some days being unable to do so much as read a sentence, I reached out for help. Even after I took the first step to fix my problem, it took months to get the right diagnosis, and to get me on the proper medication. With the cognitive setbacks, catatonia, and auditory hallucinations, the diagnosis I was given was rather dark; prodromal schizophrenia (which I talk more about here), the early stage of the disease.
It took four long weeks for my medication to take full effect. The entire thing was a crapshoot. There was a chance that the medication would not even help ease my symptoms, or the side effects would be too severe to tolerate. There were even chances that I might die or suffer permanent nerve damage due to rare reactions to the atypical anti-psychotic I was on. During this time I eagerly awaited signs of improvement. Slowly they appeared as I was able to study longer and longer each week, and the screaming, tormenting voices subsided. Luckily, I suffered no adverse reactions, and my symptoms were much improved. I was unbelievably happy.
Two weeks ago now, the dosage for my anti-psychotic was raised to help manage my symptoms even better. With the increase of the dose, my ability to concentrate has also increased, and my other symptoms have all but disappeared. I credit my medication, amazing mental health workers, and my strong family support system, for my recovery. Looking back from where I am today, I can see that I was one of the lucky ones, my psychosis is not severe, I did not have to be hospitalized, and I have a supporting family with the will and means to get me the help I need. Many in my shoes are not half so fortunate.
Through all I’ve been through, I think my favorite memory is, and shall remain, that first time after starting the anti-psychotic that I could actually sit down and study. It’s easy to take something like this for granted, something so simple as reading a book or answering a question. You never expect to lose something like that, something so base and fundamental as thinking or understanding. I know I never did. We all take things for granted. But nothing lasts forever, and what you have now may not be there tomorrow, even life is not a sure bet.
I encourage everyone reading this to take a day, just a day would suffice, and set it aside to think of the things and people that you may now take for granted, and to take the time to appreciate them in a way you may not have before. Take time to appreciate a walk in the park, the sound of a bird singing, the warmth of a fire, the comfort of a good book. Especially take time to appreciate the people in your life; they mean the most of all.
Remember that the current is only a snapshot in your life, and it is a beautiful one. To truly appreciate the current is not to take anything for granted, and that’s something that’s as important for me as it is for anyone else. I’m not sure what my future will bring, I might get worse, I might have a breakdown, I might end up spending my entire life in a mental hospital. That doesn’t matter right now, because in the current, I can pick up a book and study as hard as I damn well want, I can do things that please me, and I am happy. That is the current, and that is what matters the most.