The past is the hardest obstacle to face
A couple of weeks ago circumstances brought me to Omaha, Neb. To some it is just a town; to others it may be a stopping point on a busy interstate. For me it is the nest of memories, for it was in Omaha, where schizophrenia took a hold of me and brought me to me knees in life. As many of you might know from reading previous Mindfulness columns, it was in Omaha where my hallucinations were rooted in everything I did and experienced. My hallucinations consumed me and were choking me out of society, the world and my family.
It is hard for me to go back to those experiences and yet I believe it is wise to process some of those memories if I am going to make progress in my life.
When I was in Omaha, on several different instances I had to drive by my old apartment complex. I could see the complex from the road, and I was surprised that the physical passing of the complex did not create a feeling of dread and anxiety as it had done in the past. For once it was just an apartment complex and not the center of a web of dread and despair.
I even crossed the overpass over the freeway where I had crossed in the dead of night to avoid being spotted. In a hallucination-fueled panic I would disregard the “Do Not Cross Overpass” signs in my attempt to go to a grocery store. I crossed that overpass recently — this time in a car — and drove past the turnoff of the grocery store and I felt no pang of hunger creep up but the memories of the time when schizophrenia would have me walk the isles of the grocery store and stare at the food — which I could not buy because I had no money. I was so debilitated by schizophrenia that I was no longer able to take care of myself.
In the journey of recovery in schizophrenia, I have had to face many different obstacles. None are so hard as to face the past. For so long I slammed the door on my past, afraid it may expose to others what I went through. I was and am still saddened and embarrassed as to what happened to me while I lived in Omaha. Sometimes when I am telling someone about my past through schizophrenia I am amazed as to where I was then and where I am today, and yet, there is so much more I want to accomplish and do in life.
For the longest time, I was ashamed of the year I spent in Omaha, with everything that happened to me there. Now and especially from my recent trip there I feel a sense of freedom to step away from that part of my life. I know we all go through extremely difficult times in our lives, and it is so hard to continue on, putting on a face with a smile on it as if nothing is really going on.
I have learned from others through discussions of the Mindfulness columns that people — no matter what they are going through — are deep in pain. Most like me, are scared to tell their story, for it means an examination of the past and how life didn’t go as planned, and how there are now so many new challenges to face in life. If I have learned one thing from my experience with schizophrenia, it is that I could share with others that no matter how difficult the situations are now, I can look to my: faith, family and friends to remind me that life is so much better than it was in the past and that there is hope for a better tomorrow.
Mindfulness is brought to you by NAMI Montelores, your local NAMI affiliate. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI recognizes that the key concepts of recovery, resiliency and support are essential to improving the wellness and quality of life of all persons affected by mental illness. NAMI provides support, education, and advocacy for individuals and families through community classes, in-service trainings, support groups, and more.
Randy Davis is a member of NAMI Montelores. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.