Personal Stories

Recovering from Schizophrenia

I started to hear voices. The voices were degrading. The radio started talking to me. I thought that people were conspiring against me.

I was perplexed and disturbed. I was isolated and unable to function. I experienced a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized.

The hospital was an unfamiliar, restricted environment. My symptoms persisted and my anxiety sparked. Treatment included medications with adverse side effects.

I was discharged with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. It seemed that my goals and dreams were shattered. I didn’t want to admit that I had schizophrenia.

I was involuntarily committed to outpatient treatment. I had no control over my choices or my illness.

I was discouraged and I felt isolated.

Trying to run away from Schizophrenia was futile.

Outpatient treatment educated me about schizophrenia and helped me accept what I could and couldn’t change.

Acceptance came easier when I learned that recovery is possible.

NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, offered support groups where I knew I was not alone. I learned that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, which was essential for my accepting it.

I had a stellar support system, which also included my mother and friends.

Treatment required a trusting relationship between me and the therapists, as it was a collaboration and teamwork. Treatment also required patience and stamina. Medications had negative side effects and the process for finding the one that was therapeutic was arduous. Cognitive therapy, such as counseling, entailed much practice and it was very trying.

Eventually, I found a medication that alleviated my symptoms. Coping skills learned from cognitive therapy helped manage symptoms, such as voices, radio signals and people conspiring against me. With cognitive therapy, I became accustomed to recognizing and dismissing the symptoms, and I later experienced a reduction in paranoia.

Treatment also included goal planning and community integration. Goal planning was person centered, in that it was based on my unique strengths and will. Goal planning helped me achieve a quality life. Community integration helped me integrate into society after isolation.

Support groups have been essential in my treatment. They have provided social integration and I have also learned a treasure trove of coping skills from other members of the group.

In addition to my treatment, I have found that a positive attitude makes the difference between discouragement and perseverance. I have been blessed with a great support system and I have found that exercise is important. Humor is great medicine and spirituality has given me much peace and strength as well.

I later graduated from high school. Another milestone was completing a college education, where I majored in communications.

Being a support group facilitator has been rewarding. In addition, I write to educate people about mental illness and to serve as an advocate for others with disabilities. I am a speaker about mental illness and I am on committees that advocate for ethical treatment and rights for people with disabilities.

People with mental illness and their therapists work incredibly hard to recover. One must persevere and never give up. Success is possible.