By Rebecca Lyn Phillips
Overall, I had a happy childhood. I grew up in a middle class, loving home. I attended a private school, I had a lot of friends and I was involved in theater and music. At the age of fifteen, I signed a book contract with a major publisher. Throughout my teen years, I worked on my book, I had a baby-sitting business, I spent a lot of time with my sister, Laura, who is seven years younger, and I attended church with my family.
However, something happened during those years. I started feeling depressed and withdrawn. I became paranoid and anxious. I slept in a sleeping bag in my closet because I thought that was a way to escape emotional distress. I eventually told my parents that I thought I needed to be hospitalized.
My mom and dad drove me to Kansas City, an hour away, to a psychiatric hospital where I received treatment as a teenager. My first experience with my psychiatrist was very positive. He was kind and compassionate. He became my doctor for eleven years.
This first hospitalization began a series of many throughout my teens, twenties and thirties. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1994, a year after I graduated from high school. I thought God had forsaken me and I struggled for many years. I tried different jobs, quitting a couple of them without giving two weeks’ notice. I tried going to college. I had a love-hate relationship with my medication. In 2006, I threw all my medication down the toilet. I wanted my old self back.
I started experiencing psychosis. I called people at church, I called my apartment leasing office and left wild messages, I left notes on my neighbors’ doors. I drove to a town thirty minutes away even though I had never driven on the highway by myself. I was trying to get away from the town I lived in because I thought people were trying to find me and hurt me. I had to escape.
I lost a lot of weight. I threw my furniture from my apartment in the dumpster. Multiple people called my mom and expressed concern.
My sister and my mom drove me to the University of Kansas Hospital. It was there that my recovery began. I was put on a bi-monthly injection, which I have taken faithfully every two weeks since February of 2007. It makes me feel a lot better. Now, I can’t live without it.
My doctor has become a true encouragement to me. He is the head of the inpatient psychiatry department at the hospital. He tells me almost every appointment, “I am proud of you, Rebecca.”
I also see a social worker. I have seen him for twelve years. He listens to me and gives me wise advice. I wouldn’t be where I am without his support and compassion.
I am involved in a family support group with my mom at a mental health center. The leader of our group is so kind and a great listening ear. She gives us handouts to read every time we meet. Our family group has been going since 2007.
With my new journey in my recovery, I was filmed with two other patients in a national documentary about my illness. The title is “Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery.” It has more than half a million views on YouTube. Dr. Xavier Amador was also in the documentary, and my mom and I had the opportunity to meet him several years ago. His compassion for people with schizophrenia has helped me to have compassion towards myself.
I have not been totally healed or recovered completely, but I am on a lifelong journey of health, wellness and recovery. I have met people along the road who have influenced me and helped me put my life back together. Because of the love, support and compassion of my family, my treatment team and the people at my church, I am able to say I have come a long way. I was dead emotionally for quite some time. With medication, treatment and a belief in the future, I feel alive again.
Rebecca Lyn Phillipsis a published author, former blogger for the Topeka Capital-Journal, public speaker and national advocate for mental health.
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