This is Not a Punishment
I had a dream about a week ago.
It probably would sound silly to describe it all in detail, but the emotions in it were really powerful and I woke up sobbing.
The theme was one of sacrifice. In the dream I was a child and I was told that I would have to basically sacrifice myself as a meal for these god-like creatures that had come to the planet. If I didn't do it, someone else would have to take my place. I was terrified and the majority of the dream was me trying to prepare for this sacrifice while attempting to fight off the sense of dread and realization of the amount of pain I would have to endure while I was being eaten alive.
At the end of the dream I was an adult. I came before the god-like creatures with a plate of dishes I'd brought as part of the sacrifice. They tried them and critiqued them. When they were done I told them I was ready. I lowered my head and tried to act brave while I waited for them to rip me apart. The primary creature chortled,
"Eat you?" he asked, "Is that really what you thought this was about? We were never going to eat you. We aren't barbarians. You went through all this work even though you thought we were going to eat you at the end of it?"
He put his giant hand on my shoulder and I started to cry.
"You did good." He said softly, "Go enjoy your life. You were never meant to be sacrificed."
The dream made me aware of a lot of underlying emotions and beliefs that I didn't realize I'd been carrying around with me since childhood. They were things I've had to continue to dissect and probably will have to keep working to release.
One of these underlying beliefs is a sense of judgement.
I've been living my life for years with this sense that at any moment the divine gavel will drop and I'll be smashed beneath it. I have been in a state of constant panic about how badly it will hurt when everything comes crashing down and sometimes (many times) I've run around knocking things in my life over to try to speed up the process because the anticipation gets to be too much.
When? I ask whatever is in charge of existential topics, When are you going to destroy me? Can't you do it already? Why do I have to wait? Why am I still here?
Yesterday at some point I began to realize that there was no gavel coming to crush me. I was the one who kept crushing myself. I was the one who continued to believe in something that was harmful. It suddenly occurred to me that on an unconscious level I'd been holding on to a belief that my inability to be normal was a punishment. Somewhere, deep down I thought that if I worked hard enough, was kind enough, loving enough, believed enough, did enough... then I would be free from my disease because I believed that the disease was a divine judgment. I saw that part of the reason I get so upset when I have an episode or when I see the effects of schizophrenia in other parts of my life (lack of coordination, slow response, inability to comprehend words) I interpret it as a sign that I have not been enough.
I must have done something terribly wrong, I tell myself over and over again, to deserve to be in this much pain. I must have been a horrible person or committed an atrocious crime that I'm not aware of for my brain to fail me so incomprehensibly. I need to work harder to fix it. I need to do more. I need to do better. I need to BE better.
And then I came to realize that it doesn't matter how hard I work, I can never fix the fact that I have a lifelong brain-disorder and this devastated me.
"Why?" I asked no-one as I cried and talked to myself, "Why can't I fix it?"
Because, said the voiceless voice, There's nothing to fix. There's nothing wrong with you.
You don't need to fix it. The voice said, You need to accept it.
That seemed harder than trying to fix the impossible.
"I don't want to accept it." I told the voice.
"Because I want to be able to be like everyone else."
But you are not like everyone else. You are you. Stop comparing yourself. Stop focusing on the things you can't do. You have your own strengths, your own abilities, your own journey. Stop trying so hard to be normal. You aren't and you can't be.
And then I saw that the pain that I have carried was not caused by the disorder. My brain malfunctions from time to time-- in fact it does so frequently, sometimes people don't notice because I've gotten good at hiding it, sometimes I can't hide it and it's painfully obvious that something isn't normal up there. The disorder wasn't a punishment and the pain wasn't the disorder. The pain is me trying to be what I'm not and then judging myself for my failure to be what I never was.
It was like in the dream... Most of the dream I'd been in pain because I knew that I would suffer and die and I kept replaying that suffering while I went through the work of preparing to serve the god-like creatures. Except, what I knew was wrong and actually serving the creatures with things I had created was an honor and not a horrible experience. The pain was never necessary. It was something I believed was necessary and carried with me.
I'm not being punished. I realized.
If my brain isn't working it's not because I did something to deserve it. I work differently. Sometimes I get mad that I can't work the same, but I can't and that's okay.
Maybe one day that knowledge will slip beneath the level of thoughts and I'll actually believe it. That's what I'm working on now... Believing that it really is okay and that being different doesn't make me worth less than anyone else.
I keep saying it, but believing it takes a little longer. I'll get there one day though.