I want to let you all in. Having a schizophrenic disorder can be terrifying and confusing and I want to reveal what it’s really like. You might say it’s just a diagnosis, but it’s part of my story and often the reason I do the things I do. As disturbing as the symptoms are, when they cease with medication you sometimes feel a sense of loss.
I recently wrote about my family’s involvement with the Ku Klux Klan. I write what I know and how I feel about it. Honestly, I want answers but everyone’s dead.
What does this have to do with my schizoaffective disorder diagnosis?
Prior to treatment, I thought I could communicate with the dead. I saw apparitions and heard voices. Sometimes I had visits with dead relatives. I saw my mom who died when I was five years old. I was terrified day in and day out, but in a sick way, I thought my “abilities” made me special.
Hence the feeling of loss when medication takes away the thing that makes you special. Also, I have no memory of my mom so thinking I had a way to communicate with her was somewhat comforting.
With medication came a clear head and then atheism. In becoming an atheist I had to conclude that death is final. I never communicated with the dead. It was all symptoms of my mental illness. Thankfully, my feeling of relief has always been more powerful than my feeling of loss.
I was just thinking about this tonight because my grandparents who were in the Klan were my mom’s parents. What happened between my grandparents and me? My mom is an important link in this story and I’ll never know how she felt about it.
It’s now easy for me to say there is nothing after death, but I have to admit it’s hard knowing I may never get the answers that I seek.
Can you ask your father about your mother? Did your mother have any siblings?
Thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right about contacting other family members.
I actually called my dad last night when I wrote this post and we had a nice conversation about my mom. My mom was an artist and art teacher and we talked about her paintings. We definitely need to have more conversations like that. My mom did have two sisters but unfortunately, when my grandma died a few years ago we all went our separate ways. I haven’t had much contact with them since.
I do have a sister who is six years older than me and sometimes she has an interesting perspective on our mom. She was also just a kid when she died but she has some good memories.
I appreciate your candid writing. I have a cousin with a mental illness and have noticed that when he’s on his meds, all is right with the world. When he goes off, things are pretty awful and he suffers deeply but can’t see the way out of his suffering (that is, taking his meds does not occur to him).
I agree, believing you can speak with a dead relative must be very comforting. Some tv shows have been built around the idea of talking with the dead (for example, the series Medium) and a lot of book series tackle the subject (Darynda Jones has a series and there are many others). It’s portrayed as sometimes scary but also so very worth it.
I lost 3 out of 4 grandparents by the time I was a year old. They were all immigrants to the USA and I would give anything to have known them and to be able to ask them questions now. There are so many black holes when you can’t speak to them, learn why they made the choices they did, what struggles and what triumphs they had in their lives. Your mother, for example, grew up with her parents’ influence, but went an entirely different way.
That must be so frustrating with your cousin. One thing that is so difficult about mental illness is that so many people don’t even realize they’re sick and need meds. Sometimes I really wonder why I realized it and others haven’t. I understand my life and everything I do wouldn’t even be possible without meds. What’s so different between me and other people that are suffering? I’m very open about my struggles and spend a lot of time telling my story. I’m even a certified peer supporter. I want to find a way to help because I know what it feels like to suffer.
I’m so sorry about your grandparents. I can understand why you would like to learn more about their stories.
Thanks so much for your comment!
My best friend took his own life in March.
I have no idea why. I do know I was worried enough about him last September to ask him to see a doctor, which he did and which he thanked me for the last time I saw him, in January.
I’ve not been dealing well with the grief. I got some therapy, and my therapist gave me homework – to write him a goodbye letter… then read it out loud to my wife. I did this. It was traumatic. Later last week I read it out again, to his other best friend. It was still traumatic, but less so. I addressed it as though speaking to him, but explicitly in the text pointed out that since neither of us had ever had any truck with superstition that this was, I knew on an intellectual level, entirely about fixing my brain chemistry, but that the point of it was to deal with the deeper, stupider parts of my brain that think he is in some sense still here.
I’ve spoken with his other good friends, his work colleagues, his boss, his board gaming buddies, his parents, his sister. None of them have any idea why he did it. One of the hardest things to deal with is knowing, with 100% certainty, that we’ll never know, and letting go of that.
Thanks for writing this.
Thank you so much for your comment. I’m so sorry for your loss.
Maybe atheists lack the self-delusion gene? You see the truth of things?
It makes perfect sense that people believe in ghosts. My friends exist as fully fleshed out individuals within their own minds, but within my mind, they’re really only a construct I have created to represent them. The friend may be gone, but the construct will linger for as long as my brain functions.
On a lighter note, a joke from top gagsmith Gary Delaney: (CN: trivialising death)
My grief counselor died recently, but luckily he was so good I didn’t give a shit.