Excerpts from the book Fallen, Standing, my life as a schizophrenist by Reshma Valliapan, Ashoka Fellow and artist-activist for the rights of persons with mental illness. Reshma was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 22. She is founder director of The Mind Arcs and The Red Door
The meds just suppress everything. It becomes a form of control. It took away my voice. Not only did it repress my so called symptoms, it repressed ME. The only person who could stand up for me was me and she was repressed. I could not find that voice. I could not find her. People would come and go, say the meanest insulting things about me and to me. My parents didn’t say anything but were more of the escapist and I was blamed for it. It felt horrible. Deep inside I knew I could not and never did expect them to stand up for me.
But what affected me the most and what I could not accept was losing my own voice. Losing the only person I knew and I could always rely on to stand up for me, to back me up. To let me know that it is ok to say what you mean and mean what you say even if the world around you hated you and condemned you for it. I lost her.
And the worst of it all were people around me now liked me more, cause I was exactly what they wanted me to be. I was tame. I was obedient. I was like a dog. I would do anything they would tell me. If they didn’t like something I was wearing and asked me to change, I would. There was no question in my head about their intentions. I followed. It seemed like everything ME had died. Not once did it occur to me that I in fact had a different set of choices and a very different way of dressing. It simply never did. And this is what those days of meds did to me. It made it easy for EVERYONE to control EVERYTHING about me. It made them feel good. I don’t know if they ever thought or considered what it made me feel. And what it makes me feel now that I remember all of that.
They might and certainly have good intentions with trying to help and support me. Although, they took it too far and made everything into a symptom...Your good intentions might not necessarily be good for me. What you might consider as not important might be very important for someone else.
And I am the crazy one? I need to get a grip on what is real and what is not? I need to find balance, focus and control.
p/s: Do I sound antagonizing? Don’t I sound like I just don’t give a ****? Aren’t I rude and revengeful? Do I sound like I hate just about every one of you who falls in any category you might relate to? Do you feel like I am condemning your existence and your ways and your values and your philosophies? Well then...GOOD that you FEEL and THINK that way. You know why? Because I have been made to feel this way my entire life and there are certain people who still make me feel this way even today. SO WELCOME TO MY WORLD...or WELCOME TO THE WORLD! This is how it functions. This is how it is and to all of us. It’s called a mirror. It’s called a reflection. And if you can’t handle this one page, then throw the book away because my arrogant egoistic throbbing self will tell you on your face that maybe you are not worth reading the rest of it.
p/s again: I was only re-quoting a sentence that was used on me once. You like it?
...but then, I gotta be nice. Cause someone out there will say I am being symptomatic and talking ill of others. And even as I wrote the previous line, I can recollect an outside voice saying ‘Man she sounds delusional’.
This is the truth. I am not making it up. When I say whatever it is I say, no one would believe a word of it. This is what the world has done. I do know that those who have undergone the same will certainly know what I am talking about. That even if I am telling you the truth of what it really is you are still not going to believe me. You are still going to think that I am thinking otherwise that others think I am being symptomatic and being delusional.
And that is the paradox of a schizophrenic existence!
And that is why we don’t trust easily! Not because we are suspicious. Not because we are flooded with thoughts of delusions, paranoia and disorientation.
It is because we have to spend most of the time motivating ourselves from the vultures out there who simply do not believe us. It is because we have to fight for what everybody has so easily. It is because we have to wake up with constant reminders of how useless we are even when deep inside we know we have a lot to offer and we are not useless. But it reaches a point where you can’t get out of bed anymore. Where you refuse to open your eyes and would rather keep sleeping...forever.
You keep fighting for yourself and they keep condemning you. And you are left alone even more unless you agree. And you go into doubts of who you are, and you re-consider everything about yourself and you believe that you are indeed useless, a complete waste, and your existence does not matter. Imagine having this repeated even after recovery. Where a system still exists where they think someone like me is making it all up. Where a large group of people refuse to believe what I say but when a professional says the same thing it is taken as a fact or the ultimate truth.
AND THIS IS WHAT makes the schizophrenic feel hopeless, helpless and easily driven to take one’s life. This is the darkness we are put into when we already have enough on our platter.
What has come to the world, to society, that makes one think this way? Our laws...our activist...our fighters...our leaders...our social structures...our conditioning...
And I keep wondering is this what the world out there thinks of someone like me? Am I really that useless? And then I question everything that I do. Everything I try to make sense of, just so I can find a meaning good enough for me to wake up tomorrow and continue living in the same REAL WORLD. And I question ‘does it really matter’ ‘do they REALLY care?’ or is it that ‘Oh, look even being schizophrenic and she is doing so much’ vs ‘Oh, these schizophrenics can’t do anything’
So one day, I am the coolest person for you and the next day I am the most useless incapable person on earth and you do not want to have anything to do with me anymore.
...and you say I have personality issues?
Then again you tell me ‘Consider a routine. Get a job. Stop being dependent’.
I reply ‘I do have a routine. It is just not 8 hours but every 20 minutes’. Then they said I am hyperactive and need to be balanced.
I also got a job. Many jobs. But I was embarrassed if they found out about my label so I left.
SO THEN THEY said ‘See they can’t stick to anything’.
So I stopped being dependent and begun doing many things that works well for me. BUT YOU SAID ‘Why can’t you stick to one thing properly? Why do you have to do so many things?’
I replied ‘I’m being independent, why do you have a problem with that?’
And you told me that I am being selfish and I should spend more time with others instead of working so much or doing so many things to avoid reality.
I scratched my hand this time and it bled.
Then they said ‘You need help. You can’t keep doing these things’
I asked ‘What things?’ They said ‘You are harming yourself and those who love you’
I replied ‘Oh...by what?’
Then they said ‘See you don’t even know what you do’
Read more about her book Fallen, standing - my life as a schizophrenist - By Reshma Valliapan
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Find her book here: Fallen, Standing my life as a schizophrenist by Reshma Valliapan