How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Future

As I’ve written about before, about a year ago now I was told that I had prodromal schizophrenia, the early stage of the disease. This diagnosis means that I have about a coin-flips chance of developing the full disorder later in life. Fortunately I am now completely recovered, and rarely experience any psychotic symptoms. Still, long after I had mentally healed, I still held fear deep within me. I was deathly afraid of schizophrenia.

The fear I experienced was a fear that I am sure almost anyone in my place would feel, knowing as much about the disease as I did. I had taken both abnormal and regular psychology, and my teacher, who formerly worked with people with schizophrenia, made well sure we knew exactly how horrible the disease can be. As I started to develop some (very) early symptoms that I believed could be related to schizophrenia, I did even more research, and what I found terrified me. One third of those with schizophrenia are seriously impaired by the disease, another one third are moderately impaired. I did not like those odds.

To the outside eye, and indeed to the inside eye as well, schizophrenia can be terrifying. It’s a disease that can take your ability to reason, your ability to think, even your ability to distinguish reality from the creations of the mind. This fear gripped me from those earliest symptoms up until my first psychotic episode, and beyond. It took me too long to realize that a life lived in fear is not a life worth living. I could not go on fearing this illness. Something had to give.

It was a long recovery. Coming to terms with the fact that you might develop a disease that scares you to death surely does take a while, but I did it. I did it, primarily, by realizing that there was nothing I could do about it besides retrieving the treatment I was already getting. There was just, literally, nothing that could change what was (or was not) going to happen. It was a hard thing to accept, and in some ways it still is. If you’re like me you’re used to being in control of your destiny, making your own opportunities, realizing that in some ways you can’t…it’s hard.

In some ways though, it doesn’t matter. In some ways, it’s better that we can’t control everything that happens in our lives. Life is an adventure, and adventures can’t be adventures unless there’s a struggle to overcome. What a boring story life would be if we could just coast through it, not facing any adversity at all. I might develop schizophrenia…so what? It’s all part of the plot of my life, that is all. It’s my adventure and I’m going to adventure the hell out of it.

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