Uplifting, inspirational and heartfelt audio-essay regarding the famous saying, If you are going through hell, keep going.
If You Are Going Through Hell, Keep Going
I love inspirational quotes and sayings. Most are simply reminders of how we should live life. Of course, this is easier said than done, and I think that's why they float around everywhere, from Facebook to Twitter to blogs.
No matter how challenging things can be in life, keep going. Never give up or quit. There are no other realistic options. We are all pushed to our limits at times, and there may seem to be no way out, no reason to move on, and no solution to whatever it is that is causing us to go through hell. What remains is hope, faith, and belief, although hope, faith and belief on their own often cannot fix the problems and challenges we all face as we journey through our life experiences—but action will. Keep trying over and over again. Through action, we will likely, though not necessarily, find a solution. When you've tried everything you can, change your approach, your perspective, or your angle, and battle onward. Do whatever you can. Just don't stop. I think this is what the saying "If you're going through hell, keep going" suggests. Keep going, because if you can hang in there long enough, ultimately, things can and often will change for the better.
When I was initially diagnosed with depression in 1994 at the age of 18, I was prescribed antidepressants, including the newest of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Unfortunately, the SSRIs triggered mania, and to combat it, I began to drink, which intensified my psychological instability and led to an addiction that I was finally able to overcome when I was 26. However, as difficult as the disorders have been, in many ways, I have been blessed. Many call me a gifted artist, and I have frequently used my art to exorcise my demons of isolation and loneliness. In 1998, I dramatized these issues in my award-winning film Ten Years, which I wrote produced, and directed while attending NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. In 2008, I once again dramatized the themes of isolation and loneliness in another award-winning film, On the Bus, which also explores the horrors and chaos of mental illness. Through the eyes of the main character, we see the uncontrollable, tumultuous symptoms of schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as brought on by a random act of violence. A single act of violence rarely causes severe mental illness; current research indicates that mental illness is a result of a genetic predisposition combined with environmental factors. My case would seem to validate that research, as there is a history of mental illness in my family, and I have suffered repeated trauma. Whatever the genesis, beginning in 2009 and culminating in the summer of 2010, I experienced a severe psychotic break that manifested in inappropriate, violent outbursts and destructive behavior. Ultimately, however, this break brought me the help I needed, including a comprehensive psychological evaluation that provided me with an accurate diagnosis and the right medication.
Now psychologically stable, I invite others to witness my candid daily encounters with the symptoms of schizophrenia. I willingly and genuinely share my life through my literature, film productions, and iTunes podcast, "Schizophrenia Raw." In the vein of prolific figures such as Elyn R. Saks and Kay Redfield Jamison, I illustrate my ongoing personal struggles with chronic mental illness, nurturing truth, acceptance, and community. My art, imagination, and various creative outlets are simply my catalyst for continuous resiliency and recovery. As I turn another engaging and uplifting page of my story, I hope to impact others positively through my publicized journey of how one individual copes with the perpetual whirlwind of schizophrenia and Tourette's syndrome.
The quote "If you're going through hell, keep going" is often attributed to Winston Churchill though I have never come across any clear-cut citations. How can we apply this quote to mental illness and its associated stigma? It can be applied to life in general in countless ways, and for mental health conditions, it can bring our experiences to another degree.
Let's cut to the chase and keep it simple: Don't give up. You are walking through what is or what seems like hell. Are you going to just sit there and suffer, or will you choose to keep going, to overcome? Take baby steps. If you're in a difficult situation, keep moving on to get out of it. Recall the quote, "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end." This means that you should not stop going until you get all the way through, and therefore out! You're in a bad situation? Plunge forward. Things get better.
What if there is no way out? What if things don't get better? Maybe you’ve had a stroke, or you have ALS, Alzheimer's, and so forth, where there is no improvement, only deterioration. Are you a victim? Change your approach, your perspective, your angle. Consider how far the famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has come with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS), or those struggling with multiple sclerosis (MS). This means keeping the course, and things will get better. Life often gets worse before it can get better. Life can press your brake pedal. What is there to do? How are we to deal with it? Do you roll over and take what life throws at you, crying poor me? Do you stand up to life without fear?
Are you worrying it's not going to be easy? Nothing worthwhile is. It's how you deal with things and overcome what life throws at you that matters; it's about finding your worth, who you are, and finding your place in the world and what you give to the world—and what the world gives to you. There is joy and sorrow, it's about learning about both life and how you deal with it. It means that if things are really bad, and life seems hellish, don't give up and stop trying. Keep battling on until things improve.
If you think about it, life itself means "Don't give up." You walk through what is or seems like hell at times. "Just sit there," says that voice in your head, that imp, "and suffer." I suggest you fight intrusive, self-sabotaging thoughts. Keep going through it to get through it. When I find myself in a difficult situation, I do my best, as gently on myself as I can, to keep moving forward. I may never get out of schizophrenia—rather, schizophrenia may never, in my lifetime, get out of me. I keep hope and faith alive. I always do my best, and sometimes I miss the mark completely, over and over again.
So many quotes and famous sayings from Henry Ford come to mind. I invite you to ponder this quote until next time, although it might not seem relevant to my thesis in this essay: "My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me." Make schizophrenia or your mental health condition your friend. Befriend yourself, trust the universe, and allow the universe to trust you. Trust in your higher power or God, if you have one, or just the reasonable part of you, your core, with mental illness stripped away. Be who you are. Make mistakes. Dance. Love. Dislike. Judge or be judged. We are all here just trying our best to get by, playing it by ear. Life is in real time. There is no dress rehearsal, and part of the reason I prefer writing over communicating verbally in real time is that I can rehearse by editing my writing while following my number one rule to write first drafts, which I often publish, with no censor.
I often describe my experience with schizophrenia as every neuron in my brain misfiring. It sounds devastating. It is devastating. But if and when I can change my angle and perspective on suffering, I struggle, but I don't suffer. And I keep going. Hell? Hell no!
Maybe you have schizophrenia dominating your life as I do. Maybe you have a mental illness or physical ailment. Or maybe you're a "normie," an average person living life diagnosis-free. We all have our issues, and to quote one of my books, "We all have problems, but let's not kid ourselves: it's how we deal with them that makes the difference." I consider myself a still-recovering schizophrenic, an accomplished writer, producer, and musician who blogs and podcasts about mental illness, New Age ideas and transgressive literature.
In closing, be kind to yourself and others. Everyone is fighting their battles and many unspoken secret wars. I am grateful that my readers often consider me one of the many great voices who can communicate what far too many cannot for various reasons. Keep on keeping on.
Until next time.
You can also find Jonathan on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. Author Jonathan Harnisch has written a semi-fictional and semi-autobiographical bestselling novel, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography, which is available on Amazon and through most major booksellers. He is also a noted, and sometimes controversial, mental health advocate, a fine artist, blogger, podcast host, patent holder, hedge fund manager, musician, and film and TV writer and producer. Google him for more information.
FAMILY MATTERS | IT IS ABOUT LOVE
Processing heartfelt emotions, this is my dream.
“Where's your will to be weird?”
― Jim Morrison
Odd: Deviating from what is ordinary, usual, or expected; strange or peculiar.
The word normal came into the English language in the year 1500. It meant typical or common. By 1640 the word normal had taken on mathematical and engineering meaning. It meant “made according to the carpenter’s square”....
Eventually, by the late 1800’s, the word normal merged with the fledging science of psychology to mean a “normal person or thing”. Of course, once the normal person had been defined, it was only a matter of time before the “abnormal” person was defined as well. Those of us diagnosed with mental illness were, and are still considered, “abnormal”, meaning we exist outside the norm. Unlike the carpenter’s square, we are irregular. A bit untamed. Toward the tail ends of the normal distribution.
In the early years after being diagnosed with schizophrenia all I wanted to do was to “get back to normal”. I wanted to be like my friends who were going to college or getting married. I just wanted to get back to being normal. I thought that was the goal of my treatment: to get normal.
Eventually I learned that recovery is not about becoming normal. The goal of recovery is to become the precious gift that we were born to become. The goal of recovery is to achieve our human potential. The goal of our recovery is to become the unique, never-to-be repeated gift that we are.
~Dr. Pat Deegan
“So you're a little weird? Work it! A little different? OWN it! Better to be a nerd than one of the herd!”
“I'm too wacky for most weirdos. Who am I to judge?”
Jonathan Harnisch's struggles with his mental health conditions are interlinked with the incomprehension of non-sufferers, which provokes him to explain his reality.
Getting Through an Episode
The curtain opens. I am Jonathan.
I have schizophrenia.
I don’t want to make a big introduction. Perhaps some of you have read my work before. For me, schizophrenia is similar to what I have read. In the early material, from such turn-of-the-century psychiatrists as Kraepelin and Bleuler, there seems to be plenty of subgenres or comorbidities with this condition, which I have had since I was a boy. I believe my traumatic upbringing—at least for me, though not my sister, who was brought up in the same environment—likely set off my illness. A series of other, seemingly ongoing traumatic events in my adult life have created complications, as my doctor would call them. I experience manifestations of other mental health conditions from autism to borderline personality disorder, and my case, for lack of a better word, involves many symptomatic days and times, which often cycle rapidly. For example, my moods can fluctuate up to 30 times per day, with concomitant autistic experiences, and muscular manifestations and malfunctions. A significant number of the comorbidities of which I suffer, not only just happen and I deal with them, but rather they create reactions to even the simplest things.
I battle through daily life. I experience confusion with electronic devices, which is likely and appropriately a common symptom of schizophrenia itself. I may need to reply to an email and I forget how to, or I go to turn on my computer and I forget how to find, much less press, the power button. At the opposite end, on another day, or even another hour, I am capable of solving advanced logic and mathematical problems. While I often forget the simplest things, I have a photographic memory.
Let me back up for a moment… I left off my last essay, mentioning that I would be back writing during my next episode.
And I am having an episode right now.
Schizophrenia might be considered an umbrella disorder, though I am not a doctor of any kind. I consider myself an unemployed artist with a botched trust fund and a life that, in terms of conventional reality, doesn’t actually exist, so I create delusions, or in a way a double self—not a multiple personality, which is one of the myths of schizophrenia; this double reality, despite all the chaotically misfiring neurons in my brain, helps me to have experiences that replace the uncomfortable truths or situations that I prefer not to have. To exist. To be not myself, though loved ones have told me that there is a core, an “oversoul,” that is intact throughout my schizophrenic life.
My thought has trailed off slightly while I was about to write one last bit on my episode, primarily consisting of paranoid thinking that I should keep on writing through my now former episode until I could break through it. That is what I do. I archive my writing. Often, and only when I am feeling symptomatic, I go back to the categorized collected written words that I have been documenting since I was a boy so that I can see what happened through my point of view and so learn how to cope better the next time. I take my writing to my therapist, explaining what happened. I often bring up with him that my life is incredibly synchronistic with my books, which consist of a series of 36 alibis of what makes me who I am so that I can know. So that I can understand and so that I can keep going and move the hell onward as I always do.
I always come back.
My intention for this essay was perhaps that it would be another inserted chapter in my literature, my books, my documentaries, my life, my art, and my reason. But that thought has now trailed off as well… and I had only begun what I referred to as what was not my beginning, or my introduction to this piece.
What I would like to do now is simple: take a ten-minute break.
Time goes on, with people coming in and out of my office and interacting with me, communicating. My goal now is to return to my laptop and recall the 5 minutes after my last break; I mean my cigarette break when I wrote the initial thought that trailed off. Things change. Holy cow, things change.
I am back.
But I can’t stop now without completing this piece, my three-act play, my opera, where I am not the conductor but feel I should be, naturally, if I did not have schizophrenia. I was the violin section. I was beating the melodic tom-tom drum. I was the full orchestra performing live, both alone and with an audience. Together, all the musical instruments communicating with each other, creating a rusty fragmentation, if you will, communicating with me, at my core.
I’ll take a break now, and I will recap how I got through this one, this brief setback, and the five minutes that changed everything.
I know I can recall what happened. And I will. I never intentionally abandon what I am doing at any moment. Again, I always move ahead. There is at least some sun after the storm. If I can stay on track, or if not, while I still play this out live, some might be able to see the stream of thought that is my specialty, where I present a typical day living with schizophrenia. And I’ll call it a good day at this point. I can’t lose what I already have. If I do, I will grab something else and run with that.
In summary, if I am able (for thoughts still bombard my psyche, overlapping and wild) I will, and if not, I will just move the hell on. And let this go. I should have better things to do than to examine my day-to-day experiences with schizophrenia.
And you know what? Maybe I will.
However, I can’t leave anyone hanging. The show is not over yet. The chips are not down. I will simply do my best to finish on the stage, close the curtain, and become the director, the switchboard operator in my head. I have nothing to lose now. I am at war. Just not in combat; I am now in reserve. So let’s get to some meat, the heart of this, and some completion.
It is all so confusing and stressful.
Damn right. But it fuels me. It fuels everything.
No matter what those 5 minutes involved, from overlapping tears and a hardcore crying spell, followed by re-centering a crooked picture on the wall, to having a can of soda and a smoke, a cigarette smoke mind you. Nothing more. I can laugh now. Maybe it doesn’t matter. My brain chemistry changed, all on its own.
I am back again. I have returned another time from within the hallways of going deep into Wonderland, and back and forth. That is something I am used to. The sun is now out, at last and at least for now. Until, well, we’ll just see what comes next.
Roll credits. Insert title card:
*Amendment: There is no end. I walk off stage. The seats are empty. I am back in real life. Well, sort of. The story of my life with schizophrenia continues. The curtain draws shut.
You can also find Jonathan on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter, which is his preferred social media site. Author Jonathan Harnisch has written a semi-fictional and semi-autobiographical bestselling novel, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography, which is available on Amazon and through most major booksellers. He is also a noted, and sometimes controversial, mental health advocate, a fine artist, blogger, podcast host, patent holder, hedge fund manager, musician, and film and TV writer and producer. Google him for more information.
The collected writings of Jonathan Harnisch mark a magnificent contribution to the public's understanding of mental illness through a masterpiece of transgressive fiction with a heart. The general reader is finally able to see mainstream literary author Jonathan Harnisch at his best. Sex, Drugs, and Schizophrenia contains the works of 2014, Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography and Second Alibi: The Banality of Life, in one complete streaming narrative. The monumental scale of Harnisch's achievement through adversity flourishes and can now be appreciated in this diverse, invaluable, and thought-provoking collection of fragmented fiction, which will make your brain spin as the author's sense of the inner machinations within the human experience spring into life through the written word. It forces one to question reality and step into another world, where one wants the protagonist and his alter ego to get it together and be okay. The author reveals himself through a series of alibis in the day-to-day meetings of multiple personalities, a corner of psychiatry that is hardly understood, and shedding light on the experiences of schizophrenia in a language that the non-sufferer can understand, albeit from the author who suffers himself. Not for the faint of heart, this fictionalized account of a disparate mind triumphs. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1502925524