Few things are as terrifying as living in a world of fear and paranoia where the walls talk to you and people can read your mind, see through your eyes, sense you. One slip and others know your innermost weaknesses and secrets. When I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 15, the future looked bleak. Was this all one long nightmare? What was the point of trying when hope was tapered to a thin thread?
Years later, I was re-diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Could things get worse?
Thirty-two years later after my first psychotic break, I know I am not alone. I would not be where I am today without my family, especially my husband who helps me cope.
With self-determination and the aid of others, I completed a fine art diploma and a bachelor's degree in art history. I enjoy painting and exhibiting my work.
In writing my memoir, My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness, I was able to give back to the community by sharing my story of recovery. In attempts to build awareness and lessen stigma, I have told my story in many talks and presentations.
In 2012, I received the Courage to Come Back Award in the mental health category from Coast Mental Health in British Columbia for having faced extreme adversity, rising above it and giving back to society. Also in 2012, I was chosen as one of five Faces of Mental Illness for the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health campaign. During Mental Illness Awareness Week, I and others flew to Ottawa to speak to Members of Parliament and the Governor General and his wife about building awareness, aiding people with mental illness in the community and promoting mental health in workplaces through government initiatives.
I would want others who have experienced struggle to know they are not alone and to share with them the renewed hope that I have in the future.
To view my blog and links to art and writing, visit: http://symackay.blogspot.com
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