Never Stop Searching For Answers

Never Stop Searching For Answers

When things don't make sense, don't give up.
August
August
69
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When I was in high school, a strange thing began to happen. I couldn’t recognize my friends in the hallway. I’d stare at people, frowning, trying to figure out if this person was a friend or just a face I remembered from somewhere. I’d run up to someone to hug them, and their body would freeze. I’d pull away, realizing I had mistaken someone else for my friend. This happened a few times until I learned not to smile, wave, or hug people unless I was sure it was my friend, or if they had initiated it first. I joked about it with my friends in the cafeteria, laughing about how I freaked random people out. We didn’t think it was anything serious. Sometimes I was spacey. Sometimes small chunks of my memory were missing, like when the coolest guy in school tried to talk to me in middle school. It was strange, but no one seemed concerned when I said, “I don’t remember.” People forget things all the time. There were just some things about me and the life I lived that didn’t add up, but that’s how life was, I thought. But it got worse.

During my freshman year of college, I began to realize that I couldn’t recognize people who obviously knew me. It wasn’t that I was popular and didn’t remember people from a party. It wasn’t that I was forgetful. I really couldn’t recognize people, couldn’t tell who this or that person was that was waving to me in the hallway or talking to me in class. Usually, I could blame not recognizing someone on my awkwardness or my tendency to get lost in my thoughts. But it was more than that. I still remember clearly the day when I realized it was a problem. I walked into the counseling office at Georgia State where I went often. The woman at the front desk greeted me by name, and my eyes widened. My body grew stiff with suspicion. Who the hell was this lady? Was she stalking me? How did she know my name? Did I know her? I squinted, trying to make out her features, but they only blurred together. Was she an imposter? A stalker? Was she a secret agent who was pretending to be a receptionist so she could spy on me? Was she following me because she knew my big secret and wanted to kill me?

“Hi,” I said finally. “I have an appointment.”

I went to see my counselor and told her that more and more I’d been having trouble recognizing people, and it wasn’t really a big deal until today. It didn’t really become frightening until now. My counselor listened to me, nodding.

“Do you need a new prescription for your glasses?”

I frowned, annoyed, but went to the eye doctor. My prescription was fine. Now, what was going on? I never found out until today, three years later. Weird things have happened in my life. Enough of the weird things were explained away as delusions or hallucinations. But this experience of not being able to recognize people around me was never explained. It sat in the back of my mind, collecting dust and doubt. I started writing about it in my memoir, just to see if it made any sense because I had never spoken about it to anyone but my counselor, who didn’t seem to think anything of it. A small voice in the back of my mind, a voice I have learned to listen to told me to keep searching for answers. Sometimes that voice tells me to sell all my material things and become a farmer, and I tell myself that I am experiencing mania. Sometimes that voice tells me that my loved ones are imposters, and I tell myself that I am experiencing delusions. But sometimes that voice tells me that someone is lying to me, and I call them out on it. I am right. There is a difference between intuition and delusion. The voice in my head doesn’t know that, so I have to sift through everything it tells me, deciding what’s logical and what’s not. Is the TV really a portal to hell or do I just need to calm down? Is there really a dead girl living in the dishwasher? That gut feeling...It feels the same to me no matter what the voice says. It’s up to me to figure out what’s true and what’s not. I’ve become my own parent, an essential part of growing up. I tell the voice not to lie, ignoring it when it gets carried away.

And I thought that voice was lying about the blurry faces and not being able to recognize friends or acquaintances, but a part of me didn’t want to give up. I wasn’t diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder until a little over a year ago. Little things that I never understood, big things that seemed impossible to understand or make sense of… Most of them were explained as symptoms of schizophrenia. I searched for answers for so long in books and movies. Sure, my life had an eerie similarity to authors suffering from schizophrenia in books I read in high school like The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness By Elyn R. Saks. But I was just a girl who liked to read, not a doctor, right? When I was diagnosed, it all seemed to finally make sense. Questions that haunted me for years finally had an answer. But there are a few things left that have not been explained, like how small chunks of my memory are missing or that I’ve had trouble in the past recognizing facial features. So I looked it up the other day. It seems like such an easy thing to do, but when you’re diagnosed, they don’t give you a sheet of symptoms you may or may not suffer from. It is your job to figure out where you begin and your illness ends. With treatment, it becomes easier to distinguish between you and your symptoms, but memories of confusion and uneasiness still haunted me. And big questions like “Is everyone puppets?” or “Is God real?” seemed silly to search for online. But I tried, anyway, typing what I thought was probably nonsense into the search bar and pressing enter. I knew that I had not had trouble recognizing people ever since I had started taking antipsychotics, and I wondered if there was a correlation.

And after years of staring uncomfortably at people that I felt like I should know, at people that are talking to me like they know me when I have no idea who they are, I finally have an answer. People with symptoms of schizophrenia have trouble processing facial features, according to an article in the Schizophrenia Bulletin. The answer was right there all this time. I just didn’t know how to put into words what I was experiencing. I didn’t know what to search for. Being diagnosed helped me with that, but it did not provide an answer for everything. My jaw hung on its hinges as I read the answers to a question that had been bothering me for years.

I remember sitting in my room night after night with several books from the library open on the floor. I was desperate for answers, for anything that might shed light on my confusing, sometimes interesting, sometimes scary existence. Philosophy didn’t satisfy me, raising more questions than answers. Organized religion seemed to evade my questions, addressing something else altogether. Novels had no concrete proof or facts. But I kept searching. That is why I started reading nonfiction and writing so much. I became interested in psychology and sociology. I started writing about my questions, hoping to find my way out of the maze by getting it out on the page. And some questions still hover around me unanswered, but so many have been answered with my diagnosis. And it’s a relief. It is a privilege to learn more about myself and finally understand what is going on. Being diagnosed did not put my experiences into a box, forcing my symptoms to fit into one illness or another. It provided enough answers to finally give me a sense of peace. I may never know why small parts of my life are blotted out, inaccessible to me, but I trust myself enough to know that there is an answer, and I will never stop searching for it.

Cover Image Credit: Skotcher

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I Blame My Dad For My High Expectations

Dad, it's all your fault.
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I always tell my dad that no matter who I date, he's always my number one guy. Sometimes I say it as more of a routine thing. However, the meaning behind it is all too real. For as long as I can remember my dad has been my one true love, and it's going to be hard to find someone who can top him.

My dad loves me when I am difficult. He knows how to keep the perfect distance on the days when I'm in a mood, how to hold me on the days that are tough, and how to stand by me on the days that are good.

He listens to me rant for hours over people, my days at school, or the episode of 'Grey's Anatomy' I watched that night and never once loses interest.

He picks on me about my hair, outfit, shoes, and everything else after spending hours to get ready only to end by telling me, “You look good." And I know he means it.

He holds the door for me, carries my bags for me, and always buys my food. He goes out of his way to make me smile when he sees that I'm upset. He calls me randomly during the day to see how I'm doing and how my day is going and drops everything to answer the phone when I call.

When it comes to other people, my dad has a heart of gold. He will do anything for anyone, even his worst enemy. He will smile at strangers and compliment people he barely knows. He will strike up a conversation with anyone, even if it means going way out of his way, and he will always put himself last.

My dad also knows when to give tough love. He knows how to make me respect him without having to ask for it or enforce it. He knows how to make me want to be a better person just to make him proud. He has molded me into who I am today without ever pushing me too hard. He knew the exact times I needed to be reminded who I was.

Dad, you have my respect, trust, but most of all my heart. You have impacted my life most of all, and for that, I can never repay you. Without you, I wouldn't know what I to look for when I finally begin to search for who I want to spend the rest of my life with, but it might take some time to find someone who measures up to you.

To my future husband, I'm sorry. You have some huge shoes to fill, and most of all, I hope you can cook.

Cover Image Credit: Logan Photography

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5 Tips To Help You Feel Better If You're Sick

A few helpful tips if there's a bug going around.

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Not to brag, but I don't get sick very often, maybe once a year. When I do find myself a little under the weather, there's a few things I like to do for a faster recovery. I have no idea if any of these are 100% accurate, but I'd like to think they do. None of these will immediately make you feel better, but they'll help quicken the process.

Drink lots of water.

This one is a no-brainer, but it can be hard to do sometimes. I know when I'm sick, I definitely don't think about it. Water can help flush toxins out of your body, makes you hydrated, and can help you feel more awake and energized! If you're not a huge water drinker like I am, Tea also helps.

Stay home.

If you're sick, it's honestly better if you just take a day off and focus on feeling better. If you're worried about going to school or work, it's better that you don't spread anything. Let me just say, I'm fairly certain the last time I caught something was because someone behind me in a class was coughing through the entire lecture.

Rest.

This one goes with the last point, but sleeping will help your immune system fight off any infections. It's good to take some time off and get any extra sleep you can.

Clean everything.

I like to wash all of my clothes and bed sheet, because they're what I wear and touch the most, especially my pillow cases. This will help get rid of some germs and stop them from spreading. It's also good to disinfect anything you touch often, like doorknobs and table surfaces.

Take medicine.

This one also sounds like a no brainer, but seriously if you expect to feel better soon you should be taking some sort of medicine. At the very least, it'll help with your symptoms, so you're not couching or sneezing every couple minutes.

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