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I received an updated diagnosis from my psychiatrist. My current diagnosis is Chronic Paranoid Schizophrenia and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I also have diverticulitis and have had to change my diet over the last two years to avoid surgery. I am going through perimenopause and have hot flashes and disturbed sleep. Lastly, I have masses that keep forming in my breasts that require testing, and for one year, I thought I had breast cancer (each time I have a new mass that is a possibility). This list doesn’t even cover the side effects of antipsychotic medication which are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and possible liver damage to name a few.

When I read that paragraph and think of all I do to try to live a healthy life, health for me is a full-time job. How much I sleep, and when and what I eat, how regularly I use the bathroom. Then there is making sure I exercise, making regular doctor appointments, having my blood checked regularly, getting mammograms every six months (or sooner if a mass grows), taking my medications twice a day, learning mindfulness exercises, and writing in guided journals that address happiness, gratitude, spirituality, health, etc. I am sure I am leaving out many details of care here.

I don’t believe that everyone can make all the changes and do all the things I do to remain healthy, and I don’t believe everyone, even if they did all these things, would be healthy (I’m not 100% healthy, some of my numbers are borderline). I’m not blaming people who have worse outcomes than me, for their level of illness – not at all. I think people can do everything right and still end up with psychosis, diabetes, cancer, surgery from diverticulitis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and many other illnesses. No one is immune from illness or poor health even though so many people would like to believe that it is all in their control because it makes them feel safe.

All I am trying to show by writing down what I deal with is that it isn’t easy to manage schizophrenia, or generalized anxiety or any health issue. Having to watch everything you eat, and having to eat at certain times, trying to get exercise most days, all of that stuff is hard. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people, especially those experiencing so many of the symptoms of mental illness (like depression, lack of motivation, etc.), are incapable of doing all or even half of the things necessary.

There is something else, though. In my latest note from my psychiatrist, he said, “Rebecca has wonderful skills and a positive attitude.” I almost cried when I read that. And I know it is true because despite how hard it is to try to stay well, I am so happy that I get this chance. I am so thankful, grateful, and in awe that I am alive.

On bad days, I feel a little sorry for myself, but most days, most days, I am full of gratitude to see the moon, the stars, feel the breeze and to know what it is like to be loved, and that is just the beginning of my thankfulness. I am thankful that I have food on the table, that I know how to read and write, and that I can come up with ideas to share with people. I could go on for pages, and pages and days and days about the things and people I am grateful to have in my life.

Is chronic schizophrenia hard to live with? Yes, all illness is hard to live with, but is my life worth living, and something I want to continue until I am old and gray (well, I am already almost all gray)? Yes. I want to see thirty more summers, thirty more winters, thirty more falls, and spring, yes, spring!

It’s hard. It’s tough. It’s demanding. It is difficult. But it is beautiful beyond measure and I wouldn’t change my life with anyone because no one is immune from hardship. It is my life, and I believe I only get one, so I will gladly live it, illness and all.