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After each psychotic break I had, it was difficult to act naturally and be myself with others again. I did not think I could be considered “normal” again, and it could have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While I did have cognitive healing to do, where I had medical reasons for having some social difficulty with peers, the emotional aspect of interacting with others was probably more challenging. Through time, I have overcome emotional obstacles to blending back in with those around me and feeling accepted for who I am by myself and others.


I dealt with a significant amount of self-consciousness while in recovery, where I overanalyzed each social encounter after it happened. I asked myself: Did I say anything “crazy”? Did I sound normal? Does that person approve of me?

I would doubt and second-guess myself, self-critiquing everything I said and did, which led to anxiety before any social encounter. I thought to myself, oh, here is someone normal who is OK; let me convince this person I am normal and OK too.

Because I lacked trust in myself after my mind had failed me, I developed so many extra filters and rehearsed my speech. I tried to think beforehand about what I would say and how I would say it because I was so concerned with how I came across to others.

The end result is that since I was not totally being myself, I could be misunderstood, and distance between myself and others was established. I was so afraid of sounding “crazy” that I just could not be myself.

Having Something to Hide

I felt like the fact that I was hospitalized for psychotic breaks with a diagnosis of schizophrenia was like harboring a skeleton in my closet. I had something to hide that no one could ever find out about, and it made me uncomfortable trying to get close to anyone.

I felt like I was different than others because of what I went through, and that psychosis set me apart from “normal” people. I also thought that others would not understand what I went through and probably judge me.

The truth is that it takes so much energy to conceal and filter what you have been through. I was putting more energy into suppressing and filtering than energy in sustaining current friendships and building new ones. If I wasn’t careful, I could become socially isolated.

Feeling “Normal” and Being Yourself

After going through something as bizarre and terrifying as my psychotic breaks were, it was hard to relate to others. I would go through these negative thought patterns that other people’s lives are normal and easy compared to mine—that my life is unexplainable in comparison.

It was easy for me to think that I was just pretending to be like everyone else, like something deep and profound separates me from others. Part of my brain was always on overdrive, trying to make sense of what did and didn’t happen during my psychotic breaks while trying to assimilate and blend in with the here and now. Sometimes, I felt like I just didn’t belong, especially when I felt like I missed the boat that my peers were in.

Building Community and Social Connections Matter

Sustaining old friendships and building new ones matter, even if the topic is met with fear and anxiety. When do I tell this person about what happened to me, or do I ever tell them?

Personally, I have found that when finding true friends, I have an ultimate test that proves whether they are genuinely good friends. I usually wait a while after getting to know someone, but eventually, once we become close, I carefully share my diagnosis.

To this day, I have lost only one friend who knows about my experience, and I think the relationship was gradually ending anyway. But with the loss of one friend, I have met so many more good friends who accept my diagnosis and history, including my now husband.

With people who I share my mental illness history with, we become closer, and I know I have a true friend who I can totally be myself with. What I have had to learn is that I have to give people the chance to accept who I really am, or I will never know whether they really get me. It is worth it to know for sure.

Another tremendous social opportunity is joining a support group with others who have gone through the same thing you have. With the secrecy and silence involved with psychotic breaks and stigmatized diagnoses, it is easy to know in your head that others out there have what you have, but to know in your heart that you are not an isolated case is another.

I co-facilitate a weekly support group, where, for the first time since I was diagnosed 12 years ago with schizophrenia, I have met other people with the same diagnosis and other serious mental illness (SMI) labels. It has been genuinely life-giving that other people understand precisely what experiences I went through in a way that helps me feel normal and accepted for who I am.

The truth is that I have achieved this frame of mind where I have never missed the boat; I’m in the same boat with everyone else, and my pain is no different than others’ pain. Pain is pain, and there are trials in life that I will never have to go through. I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for, and now I do feel like everyone else. Feeling similar to everyone else is more than half the battle in acting like yourself and being clear on who you are to other people.

Original article featured in Psychology Today | November 6, 2023. Image credit: Fauxels/ Pexels