An Open Letter – by Anonymous

Todays article is from an anonymous source.  ————————————- I’m afraid this will not be a short narrative, but I’ve been encouraged by my wonderful girlfriend into hoping my story might be an interesting one to share. For a very long time, I’ve considered whether or not I should offer testimony illustrating how influential this community has been in my life. It’s been extremely difficult to censor my appreciation.  For a long time now, I’ve felt an obligation to keep my story to myself because people tend to use my mental illness as a way to discredit my liberal and secular disposition in a deeply red state. Like most children in America, I, along with my twin sister, was raised by Christian parents. More specifically, a single Christian mother occasionally accompanied by a mostly disinterested and absent Catholic father. However, my mother’s necessity to maintain three jobs rendered my childhood entirely secular in her absence. This might have been my saving grace. There just wasn’t any time for God in our house. Our father absconded on our 8th birthday after my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Shortly after, I found it (and this is my most vivid childhood memory) increasingly difficult to reconcile good and evil using Christian rhetoric.  By the time I was twelve, I considered myself pagan.  I began to subconsciously and metaphorically deify states of existence and their emotive counterparts. I began to fashion Gods of love, of hate, of intelligence, etc. Although no longer have any belief in the supernatural, these are metaphors I still use when trying to relate to the world. Shortly before my 21st birthday I joined the United States Marine Corps and served two tours of duty in Iraq. It wasn’t until my second tour that my corpsman (read: medic) noticed odd behavior. I began to experience audible hallucinations that lead to delusions of being connected an entity nobody else could see. In the Marine Corps, any manner of mental disorder has a curious stigma attached to it.  People look at you as only half a man or woman.  I have mixed feelings about my time in service. On one hand, I loved my job and most of the people I had to privilege to work with, but It was the apathetic, condescending, and dismissive attitude my command exhibited that makes it very hard for me to forgive and forget.  It took a very long time to start getting the help I knew I was going to need for the rest of my life.  After a very long stint of observation, I was diagnosed with undifferentiated schizophrenia. It took me a very long time to accept, and even longer for my family to follow suit. I was accused of demonic possession by my own mother, a diagnosis she still holds to be valid even today.  My sister found it easier to explain by dismissing the diagnosis altogether. Before I start to feel like I’ve written myself a depressed, woe-is-me pity-party, I’d like to profess that this autobiography does have a happy stopping point. Medication having very little effect, I started looking for answers online. Eventually,I stumbled upon an article that suggested I needed to reteach myself how I process and reacted to the world around.  I know this sounds like an axiomatically simple solution to my problems, but it took me almost two years to realize. Eventually, I stumbled onto “The God Delusion.” It was my gateway drug to reason. This community became a proxy through which I discovered Harris, Hitchens, and eventually Dennett. it was Dennett’s calm, cold, and honest rationality that helped me the most. He taught me how to think.  It may not have saved my life, but it certainly saved my optimism — I am a schizophrenic atheist and I am more rational than 90 percent of my American brothers and sisters when it comes to understanding the universe I live in. I am very proud of that. And now for that happy part I made a brief, promissory allusion to earlier.  I’ve recently purchased my first house with the woman I love very much and I am nearing the point where I feel I am comfortable and ready for college. Also, although comically irrelevant, Star Wars: The Old Republic just came out… who couldn’t be happy about that? =P

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About shatteringthestigma

An open blog taking submissions from skeptics and skeptic friendly individuals on the subject of mental health.

Posted on February 18, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Your letter reminds me a lot of my partner. He comes from a very actively religious family, and their response to his diagnosis has been denial as well – it seems to me like keeping up appearances is very important, and the appearance of something as heavily stigmatized as schizophrenia is completely unacceptable to them. Like you, his main weapon against the disease is rationality. That is so impressive to me. I’m very proud of him. And of you.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. I too am a big fan of Dan Dennett. “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” is one of my top-five favorite books of all time. When I read that book I finally began to understand the concepts of bottom-up design and emergence.

    If you haven’t read Carl Sagan’s “The Demon Haunted World” I highly recommend it. That book was my “gateway drug” to skepticism and reason.

  3. Thank you, ‘N’, for your thoughts. Although unfortunate, it helps to know there is someone else trying to walk around in the same shoes I do.

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