The ‘check engine’ lights of life

We have all seen it happen. On the side of the road, there is a vehicle with the hood up and steam coming out from the engine. We mentally stop and take note that we are glad it wasn’t us.

How often do we go through life with our own inner “check engine” light blinking at us? Physically we may be fine. Internally we may be dealing with a multitude of issues that the mind has trouble processing. Especially now that we have entered the holiday season, what gauge light is blinking inside of you?

My schizophrenia has caused me to have extra check engine lights in my mind. There is the regular light that we all have that is supposed to warn us of internal stress and hazard. However, in my mind there is another light that I watch very meticulously. That is the check engine light of my schizophrenia. When I let situations and stress in my life pile up without managing them properly, or when there is a bump in my medicine coverage, my light comes on. I feel that when this light comes on, I need to stop what I am doing and refocus my attention to slowly get back to my cruising speed.

Every couple of months I seem to have a down period with my schizophrenia. It is just a couple of days where I hear an auditory knocking sound. It sounds like someone banging on the door. I must be very careful because this is how my hallucinations have manifested themselves in the past. To combat this symptom, I take some extra medicine and refocus the activities I am involved in. I have been able, through medicine, to keep the hallucinations away in the past three years.

During these times when I am not feeling up to par, I don’t want to give in to my illness and limit my personal activities to nonstress activities. This is always hard because I feel like I am disabled in my abilities. My pride is hurt because I don’t want to acknowledge the fact that my mind now operates in a different manner then before. Somehow, during these down times, I feel that I am not operating at the capacity I am capable of operating at.

When I’m cruising through life and the schizophrenia check engine light comes on, I must pull over and take the time to let the steam out before it affects the rest of my mind. However, I have a great support system that helps me release the tension in order to keep going. Through tugs, pulls and encouragement, I can realign myself so that I can keep going down this journey we call life.

When I see others pulled over, and the steam is billowing out of their car, I can’t help but wonder what is going on inside of them. We may never know what situations are arising internally to impact that person. Once the vehicle is towed away, there might be some fluid left on the roadway but most often the signs of the physical trouble have been erased. If it was only that simple to erase all of our problems; for we all have check engine lights inside of us blinking with the stresses of life.

Through my schizophrenia I have learned that if I take the time to help someone else this helps me not be so focused on my own problems. If I can spend a little time here and there brightening someone else’s day, I am also recharging my own batteries. My medicine and support system has become my own pit crew. I hope if we see someone with their check engine light on we can take the time during the holidays and reach out to help someone else.

Mindfulness is brought to you by NAMI Montelores, your local NAMI affiliate. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI recognizes that the key concepts of recovery, resiliency and support are essential to improving the wellness and quality of life of all persons affected by mental illness. NAMI provides support, education, and advocacy for individuals and families through community classes, in-service trainings, support groups, and more. For more information please contact Geri Sanders at 970-759-2416.

Randy Davis is a member of NAMI Montelores. He can be reached at

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