Posts Tagged ‘Oscar Levant’

“Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m schizophrenic, and so am I.”
Oscar Levant

Due to the shooting in Arizona; schizophrenia has become a hot topic. It is sad that this illness is brought to the forefront in such a negative light, all because of one person. I am certain many people out there believe those who suffer from schizophrenia are nothing but raving lunatics walking the streets talking to themselves while wearing tinfoil helmets to shield the government from stealing their thoughts. I think this is the image most Americans think of when they hear the word schizophrenia. Yes there are some of us out there, who unfortunately may fall under this generalization, but for the most part this is simply not the case, and in my opinion is a form of discrimination. These types of sweeping statements are the same as saying “all Muslims are terrorists.” Yes there are those who deteriorate to the point of madness such as Jared Loughner had, but this one man does not define how everyone else with this disease acts. There are many high functioning schizophrenics out there who work have families and contribute to society. It is sad that as a society, those of us who suffer from mental illness need to still carry that stigma around with us.

I know society does not deal well with mental illness. There are so many uneducated people out there with discrimination in their heads. I can tell you a personal story of such discrimination. I was working at a company which shall remain nameless. I was employed there for a while, and I was excelling at my job. I would go out to lunch with my co-workers and shoot the shit. Business was good, and there were no complaints against my job performance. I shared a cubicle with two other guys and we worked together to make sure projects were getting done. We were all in the cube one day when the topic of mental illness was brought up. They were talking about how those who have bi-polar disorder are drug addicts and completely useless to society. They went on to say how they are all violent criminals who are completely out of control. At first I bit my lip, just hoping they would go on to the next topic. About twenty minutes into MI (mental Illness) bashing I final had to interject. I told them their comments were offending me since I am bi-polar (diagnosis at the time but later changed.) I told them I am able to contribute to society and I am by no means violent or a drug addict. The cube became awkwardly silent and rather uncomfortable. They apologized for offending me, and I accepted. We went back to work with no other issues. Two days later I was “laid off.”

Schizophrenia is a progressive brain disease where as time passes symptoms of this disease seem to get worse and worse. I am only thirty-one years old so I am in the infancy stages of my illness. I am able to manage it properly so I can function within society.  My doctors have done a great job with managing my symptoms with medication. I have a job, which suites my illness perfectly allowing me to be a productive member of society. I am able to be a husband, father, and friend. I still have episodes where I fall apart and need daily living assistance, but I am able to get out of my head and find sanity. The progressive part is what scares me though. I am afraid of where my mind will be in five or ten years. I worry about slipping so far into my head I become completely detached. What scares me is I won’t even know what is going on. The shitty thing about this is I cannot control this inevitable outcome. I just need to have hope and faith I will always be high functioning.   

With all the negativity going around about this illness I thought I should speak out about it. Yes there are those who completely lose touch with reality. The sad part is they can be reeled back in with medication along with the proper support system. This shooting in Arizona could have been avoided if Loughner’s friends and family had been monitoring him more. From interviews I have seen it sounds like his friends knew he was off his rocker, yet stood by and did nothing. There are millions of us out there who suffer from one form of MI or another, yet I feel that we hide it in shame. Many of us are high functioning adults who seem in control of our illness.

I am not embarrassed or ashamed of whom I am, and I am not embarrassed or ashamed of my illness. I am proud that I am high functioning considering my diagnosis. I am proud I can hold down a job and raise a family. I may have a mental illness, but this illness does not define me as a person. I need to learn to live within my limitations and accept who I am illness and all. I wouldn’t need to hide or be ashamed if my illness was MS, but for some reason I should feel differently because it is MI? I think people hide their MI like a dirty little secret because they are scared of being judged. Does anyone else hear how sad that sounds?

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