So fifteen years ago I had a severe breakdown, was hospitalised and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
In the last fifteen years I have clawed my back to the light; to a common reality; to a place where I feel vaguely connected to the people around me. I’m still working on this. I am a lot better, in a much better place than I was a year ago, five years ago- but I still have days and moments where it feels as though the metaphorical ground beneath me is going to rock and fall away again. I still have days and moments where it feels as though the tectonic plates in my mind are shifting too far, too fast. These are horrible sensations, and the symptoms are horrendous. I live with it, I’ve lived with it for a really long time and I know how to cope, how to get through it.
However I think it sometimes makes me quite hard to get on with, quite hard to relate to. I have a very matter of fact, practical mindset about worries and problems: if it’s not important, let it go; if it is important work out how to fix it. I have had to think like this, live like this, because I have had to solve the problems in my mind, and I have had to work out ways to overcome the issues which cause me pain. It makes me very driven, and focused, and I sometimes struggle with people who moan about things but have absolutely no inclination to sort them out, to work out ways to make them better. If you can’t be assed to work out how to fix a problem, and then put in the work to overcome it, then it can’t be too badder problem in your life and you should stop moaning about it.
I think I can sometimes come across as quite cold. I do care for people, but experience has taught me that i’m not going to mother anybody- I am not going to expend time and emotional energy worrying about someone who doesn’t want to worry about themselves.
I have a lot of issues- a lot of hang-ups. For the last year of my previous relationship I started to wonder whether I was actually gay- whether there was something about men which meant that I couldn’t be close to them and remain stable. Then I started remembering things which happened in my past, and I started to wonder whether it was more than that.
I was molested in a shoe shop on a school trip to Colonge when I was 11. A much older man came up to me and ran his hands all over me whilst using his body to hold me against the rack of shoes. He walked away and out of the shop straight away afterwards and I was left feeling confused and ashamed. I told a teacher but nothing happened, and then I forgot about it. A year before I had my breakdown I was raped by a man in Italy. It has taken me fifteen years to be able to acknowledge that I was raped, because I was extremely drunk at the time and so have basically felt as though it was my fault and that I deserved it on some level. I almost died, I fell off a pier and only managed to pull myself out because I’m extremely confident in water. If I hadn’t been I would have drowned. The guy didn’t do anything to help, he just stood and watched. Maybe if he’d seen I wasn’t able to pull myself up and out he would have jumped in to help, but he didn’t. I managed to grab a metal pole which was sticking out the side of the rocky pier, swing my legs up and grasp it and then lever myself up.
Once I was standing again he lunged for me. It was horrendous and afterwards he left me lying on the rocky floor on my own, I was scratched up and fading in and out of consciousness. The next night I went on my own to a cafe, because my friends were seeing this group of guys again and I didn’t want to. I hadn’t told them what had happened. I went to a cafe and sat reading my book. I drank about 7 double JD’s and cokes, and was the only one in the bar/cafe. When I asked the man behind the counter if there was a loo, he followed me down the coridoor and tried to kiss me. I fought him off and locked myself in the bathroom, and when I came out he was still there and tried again. I fought him off again and left. I walked back to our hotel on my own, completely numb and unable to process what had happened. I was 19, and the guy must have been in his late 50’s.
A year later I went mad, after getting into my first serious relationship with a man. This man was wonderful, absolutely the most loving, caring man I’d ever met. And yet I couldn’t relax around him, something always felt wrong, and after about a month I stared hearing voices in my head and eventually lose it completely. I had forgotton about what happened the summer before- I had blocked it out in my mind and pushed it back somewhere.
It has only been in the last couple of years that this has all come back up into my head. And it’s all been fcking with me. On some days I think I hate men generally. My symptoms often conspire to make me overly aware of them, I feel as though I’m too close, or they’re too close. The problem that I’m having is that a lot of this is a result of the schizophrenia itself. I don’t hate men, I really don’t, however there is a part of me which has been angry and sad for a long time, and this has a lot to do with what happened the summer before I became unwell.
For the last fifteen years, a part of me has been screaming- you’re a fcking idiot, you got so drunk you almost died and then terrible things happened. It was your fault, everything which has happened has been your fault and you deserve everything you’ve got since!! You have no respect for life, no respect for anything positive.
However another part of me has been resolutely, grimly, defiantly, stubbornly saying: you’re not a fcking idiot. What happened wasn’t your fault, you may have been drunk but that guy took advantage and did a terrible thing, the guy the next night even more so. You shouldn’t feel bad about this, a bad thing was done to you. It’s not your fault.
Unfortunately I self harmed quite badly when I was 16 and 17, and so that first voice taps into something which is very deep and dark in me. You have no respect for life, you have no respect for anything positive. That voice really messes with me, it really makes me sad.
So I do have a part of me which has been messed up, quite horrendously messed up, and I think that my attitude towards men hasn’t always been the most healthy. I think that my last relationship was both positive and negative, but I do still struggle to relax. Not all the time, and I’m working on it. But by the time me and my ex were basically over I was starting to wonder whether I needed a long period of time on my own, or perhaps I needed to be with a woman. All of the above would present very strong evidence that being with a man might not work for me.
The schizophrenia doesn’t help. This conflict, this uncertainty- it taps into something which SUCKS ASS.
For a long time the darkest, most insidious voice would say- but you want this. This has only started to make a kind of sense in the last couple of years. The physical symptoms which accompany this are messed up, so very messed up. Schizophrenia is a question mark, spinning around an unfixed point- and the questions which are brought up with all of this are daunting.
So when the guy from my holiday asks me- why can’t you relax? A part of me simultaneously laughs and cries.