Personal Stories

I’m Grateful For My Mental Health Journey

by Joyce Zaid

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I suffered from major depression, compounded by episodes of psychosis, for over 20 years — a struggle that culminated in my arrest in 2006. I was unaware of my psychosis for much of this time, and I only fully understood what I was experiencing when I nearly attacked another client at my mental health agency. I was then diagnosed with major depression with psychotic features and received treatment for over 10 years.

Despite pursuing treatment for depression with psychosis, my symptoms did not abate. Finally, in 2019, a psychiatrist diagnosed me with schizoaffective disorder. At first, I wouldn't accept the diagnosis. I was in the depths of my illness, in a fog of depression and psychosis, but I believed my behavior was simply due to my depression — and I did not understand that the voices I was hearing were hallucinations rather than my internal monologue.

Three years later, I have accepted my diagnosis — and my history makes sense to me now. Looking back, I now have language to describe what was happening to me when I behaved erratically and responded to voices — and I know that all the confusion and frustration I was experiencing were symptoms of schizoaffective disorder.

I have also made strides in my recovery; I am stable, despite the occasional bout of psychosis or depression. My personal and professional life have flourished; I am a spouse, mother and grandmother, sibling, aunt, great-aunt, friend and employee. I have worked hard to maintain my mental health, and I am proud of my accomplishments.

Although parts of my history were difficult, I am grateful for the path that brought me here. I certainly struggled in the earlier stages of my mental health challenges, but I believe that the fulfilling life I have today is a result of my complicated journey. Getting arrested saved my life; though I have two felonies on my record, those incidents encouraged me to get mental health treatment, and I didn't let them stop me from finding employment or housing. I was fortunate to have a community that stood by me: family, friends, coworkers, church members — even strangers who reminded me that I was not beyond redemption, that I had the right to live the best life possible, and that my past didn't have to shape my future.

I know not everyone has the support or resources to live their best possible life; many families struggle to access and afford appropriate treatment, and we face several challenging policy issues regarding crisis response. It shouldn't be that way, but as the conversation surrounding mental health becomes a national priority, things have begun to improve. My hope for the future is that more people with mental illness can get the care and services they deserve and live lives of hope and dignity, because everyone deserves a happy ending.