People are always surprised when I tell them I have schizophrenia. They even go as far as to argue with me as if my doctors have no idea what they’re talking about. “You can’t possibly have schizophrenia,” they say. “I know schizophrenics; you’re nothing like them.”
These types of statements make me wonder, if I really don’t appear to be like other schizophrenics, why that is. I tried explaining to a friend once that I’ve had a really hard life, and those challenges may have prepared me to deal with such a difficult thing as being diagnosed with this brain disorder. My stepfather beat my mother when I was seven; there was a meth lab in my refrigerator at age thirteen. I feel like going through these types of challenges have prepared me for the tough things that happen to us in our lives, like getting diagnosed with schizophrenia, rendering me the tools to deal with them.
But the truth is that these things shouldn’t matter. There’s no reason why schizophrenics—or anyone else really—should be labeled a certain way. It’s like telling someone they don’t look schizophrenic. What does a schizophrenic look like, exactly? Why do we have to look a certain way or act a certain way? We’re humans after all, and have every right to be as individual as any person without the disorder.
It all comes down to compassion. You can be compassionate towards us for the things that we deal with, without putting us in these little boxes no one dares to open. We are people just the same.
Allie Burke is a writer and mental health advocate. You can find her literary novel Paper Souls here.