When I First Became Mentally Ill as a Teenager

During puberty, I began to really like girls. I wanted a girlfriend very much. Already, I knew that I wanted to have a large family, like I’d had growing up, and that I wanted to wait until marriage to have sex.
Unfortunately, there was something wrong with me. I literally did not know how to have a girlfriend, or how to be a boyfriend because I was experiencing prodromal schizophrenia. Not knowing how to interact with girls frustrated me as a teenager.
Prodromal schizophrenia is the time period when a person’s mental health starts to deteriorate, yet the deterioration has not become noticeable to others. Prodromal schizophrenia can last for years.
As a teenager, I didn’t put much thought into wondering whether I might be mentally ill. I had no idea what prodromal schizophrenia and paranoid schizophrenia were. Maybe if there had been more awareness about schizophrenia and other mental disorders in school, I would have figured it out. But instead, my illness progressed, and I had no idea.
In junior high, I tried and tried to get a girlfriend. My friends would introduce me to girls and they asked girls if they’d be interested in dating me. I asked my friend Steve if he could help me get Dorothy to be my girlfriend. Steve was dating Dorothy’s friend. I knew nothing else about Dorothy and had never spoken to her, but I really wanted to have a girlfriend. I wasn't sure if I should date her because I hadn’t met her, but I was dying to be in love. Dating seemed like a good first step.
Steve wrote a note that asked Dorothy if she’d be my girlfriend, and I signed it. Together, Steve and I gave the letter to Dorothy while she was confabbing with her friends during lunch at school. We stood nearby trying to look cool.
She said yes, just loud enough for us to hear. Steve cheered, and then we walked away.
Steve and my other friends had teased me about kissing Dorothy; however, I was confused and didn’t know what to say to a girlfriend, because I was so ill.
"Kiss Dorothy. Kiss her!" Steve tried his best to convince me over the next few weeks. "Kiss your first love."
"I will," I promised, hoping I'd figure out how to get to know her better soon. I just couldn't figure it out, so I continued to put off talking to her.
Because I didn’t know how to have a girlfriend, however, I never talked to or even sat next to Dorothy. Plus, I was still shy. I wanted very much to sit next to her during lunch in order to get to know her better. But I continually put off talking to her. Dorothy never attempted to talk to me, either. In fact, our longest conversation took place when she broke up with me over the phone, a month or two later.
Early in high school, because I was so ill, I tried again to get a girlfriend, but I still was deeply confused. All throughout my teenage years, I was struggling mentally. And then, one day, when I was almost twenty-one, I became noticeably ill to my parents, and they brought me to see a psychiatrist. Had I gotten help earlier, maybe I could have had a girlfriend and not missed out on being a teenager.
That occurred many years ago. Today, there is much more awareness about mental illness, and there are more resources that allow young people to get advice. Fortunately, medications are also better today.
If your thinking isn’t what it should be, please tell someone and get professional advice. There might be a possibility that you are mentally ill, and if you are, you will want to begin treatment as soon as possible. And, please, tell the truth; do not lie about how you feel. A medical professional will use what you tell him or her to diagnose and treat you.
Today, I am at least seventy-percent recovered, according to my psychiatrist, and that is as well as I’ll most likely be, even with the medications I take. I am doing exceptionally well, and I have a great life. You can have a great life, too, if you get the help you need.

About Richard Carlson Jr:

Richard Carlson Jr. is an author of children’s books and coming-of-age romances. He is a highly sensitive person, or HSP, who has paranoid schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. You can learn about his memoir, Surviving Schizophrenia, at www.rich.center. Surviving Schizophrenia is available in English, Spanish, Dutch, and Hindi and coming soon as an audiobook.