April 15, 2005

Living with Schizophrenia 2

If you have a schizophrenic friend or family member you're all familiar with the sight of former patients at the local coffee shop -- Dunkin Donuts most likely for its low prices -- sitting around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, sometimes talking together, just as often silent, each seemingly lost in his or her own personal world, and you probably feel sorry for them. But having been part of these groups many a time, I can tell you that, at least on my part, I was having a good time, quite enjoying myself. When we spoke, I felt we were speaking profoundly, and when we didn't, I felt our silences were companionable. But the important thing I want to impress upon readers is this: if the others' experience was anything like mine, and I suspect it was, I had no memories to speak of, that is, no past to go back to and think "Wow, I used to be such and such, I used to do such and such. What happened?!" I realize that some did have a past, had accomplished goals to regret losing before the illness overtook them, and perhaps they were thinking about what they lost. But I suspect they weren't as aware of the gravity of their losses as others without the illness would have been. As for the future, well, for me, as I said in my last entry, it was and is a total blank, impossible to contemplate or predict even as a mental exercise. So in that silence I seemed "mired" in, I was actually contemplating the present moment all the while, thinking about that cup of coffee and cogarette, about how great it was to smoke and drink at any time of day, about how wonderful it was to have a few extra dollars and friends to go out with that day, about how lucky I was...and so on.

That's my point. I live forever in the present, so much so that everything becomes a kind of meditation. If I decide to do some seemingly trivial craft project -- like make a papermache box out of an Altoids tin, I enter into it fully, so much so that the box starts a conversation with itself and I become a mere bystander, listening in on the conversation! And I continue, fully absorbed, one with the activity, as long as the moment lasts, or as long as my mood or ability or state of mind lasts. That could be three hours or five minutes -- there's no predicting. But when it's over, I put the project away and go on to something else the spirit, so to speak, moves me to, the next thing I will enjoy, perhaps cigarettes and coffee, who knows!

This is one of the blessings of schizophrenia for me. Something I do not suffer from but something all might benefit from: the ability to live each moment for itself, to live fully in the here and now. It might be perforce, but that doesn't detract from the value of it. So, even in a bad mood, I expect to enjoy life, and in the end my dark mood doesn't last, because I find something to enjoy and it evaporates (with some help, admittedly, from effective medication to take the edge off); it's a circular way of living, perhaps, with a kind of positive feedback, but at least for me it has its advantages.

Posted by pamwagg at April 15, 2005 08:43 AM


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