The way people look at you is determined by the way you look at yourself.
When our esteem gets tested, our image and self-worth may get battered and bruised and sometimes broken beyond repair.
There was a time when I considered myself normal and trusted by others. That was before the dreaded C word.
No, it is not cancer I am thinking of, but the word "crazy."
But just like having cancer, being considered crazy is considered socially unacceptable to talk about by many.
Tell me, would someone prefer to work closely with someone who had post-traumatic stress disorder? Would someone prefer to have someone marry into his or her family who had paranoid schizophrenia?
We are tested all the time. It is part of our human condition. Some may bend, some may break, but all go through this.
The U.S. Army changed my life in dramatic ways, ways I never anticipated, and nevertheless ways that still affect me to this day.
I can remember once a bloodcurdling scream, people frantically running past me, and then silent whispering.
Someone attempted suicide in the mental health ward of Walter Reed Army Medical Center while I was locked away as a patient diagnosed with schizophrenia.
That was how I spent my Christmas in 1986.
Some bend, others may break.
Self-esteem is very important for building a successful future. But when someone gets a mental illness, one that is treatable but nevertheless incurable, one is left with a lot of doubt.
I do have natural talents and abilities that are valuable to society. I believe every person has in some capacity or another.
But, the stigma is still with me in the corner, waiting for me to put my defenses down. It is a long and never-ending journey of recovery - I still have to lose a few rounds to win the fight.
I once had a friend who may have had reasons to be bitter after suffering from schizophrenia, but he didn't show it. Instead, he shared a joke with me, a laugh and some tears.
He once told me, "Keep on punching until you punch a winner."
The reason I write this is that I wish to give back so that others may know there is hope. That one may bend, but hopefully never break by giving up the fight.