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My Acceptance with Mental Illness

Acceptance to me is when a person recognizes they have a mental illness and then takes ownership of their recovery by meeting the needs of their mental health concern (i.e., medication, therapy, and/or other forms of treatment). Acceptance for me did not come easy. Now I will share with you how I started receiving treatment, why I initially refused it, and who helped me accept my diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia.

Initially, I was forced into treatment, mandated by a judge to medication compliance. Therefore, whenever I refused to take my medication a group of staff would barge into my room, pin me down to the bed while the nurse administered a shot. We followed this routine for a few days till I gave in and took the pills they gave me.

In the beginning, I did not take the medication for several reasons: 1) I did not believe I needed them, nobody told me I had schizophrenia they just started giving me medicine one day, 2) I had a history of enduring allergies and other less severe illnesses without medication, and 3) I did not want to make the medication "weaken" my spiritual gifts. In other words, I lacked insight into what was actually happening to me- I was falling a part- I had had a nervous breakdown or psychotic break. I did not see myself failing to take care of personal hygiene, not engaging in activities and conversation with others (isolation and poverty of speech), or notice the fact that I would stay in one position for long periods of time (catatonic).

Growing up, I let colds and allergies fade away on its own. I did not want to be dependent on medication unless it was very serious like the flu. Lastly, when I noticed a change in my ability to read people's minds or to read into their spirit whether they were good or evil, I felt like the medication was interfering with my God-given talents. When in truth, the medication was bringing me back to reality!

After finally giving in and taking the medicine, another problem occurred... The SIDE EFFECTS. I would sleep all day everyday. I missed out on group therapy and free time with peers. On top of that I was extremely hungry to the state of not being able to focus, can you imagine?!

Moreover, a downside to another medication was lack of sleep. I could not sleep because I felt compelled to move about, this was restless legs. After experiencing restless legs I did not want to take my medication. (This is one of many reasons why some other people with a mental illness may not want to take their medication). I complained to staff about my new condition (restless legs) but with no avail until I caught the attention of another doctor. In the meantime, nurses bribed me into taking my medicine with candy and juice, which was a treat in jail.

Finally, a medication that controlled the symptoms with a more tolerable outcome... Stiffness. I did not feel stiff, however, medical staff would ask me how I felt and would move my limbs to test for any discomfort, because, well, I walked like a "robot!" This is what my peers called me.

Then the "talk." My doctor told me my official diagnosis- Paranoid Schizophrenia... but wait! I was NOT devastated, because I was blessed with a great doctor, let me tell you why he was great... He had a passion for helping patients. He explained what the symptoms of schizophrenia was and applied them to my specific situation. He said my illness was to explain all the symptoms I was experiencing- the voices, delusions, etc., which made me feel a little relieved, but wait this is not the only reason why he was a great psychologist.

I had a great doctor because he believed in me and in my recovery. He had hope for me! He told me that I can return to college as long as I managed my stress and take my medication regularly. He said I can lead a normal life as long as I did these things. His faith in my recovery gave me HOPE that I can do it! And now I am...

Currently, I am attending college part-time. I also volunteer and do a lot of community service in the mental health field. I live independently, cook for myself, take my medication regularly, manage my bills, etc. with the support of family, peers, and treatment team.

If you, or a loved one, is living with a mental illness there is hope. For me it began with Acceptance- meeting the demands of my mental illness in order to get well and to stay well. I take my medication as prescribed, participate in several support groups a week, and stay connected to my support circle- family, peers, and health care professionals.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., NAMI, Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).


K.C. Jones said…
I'm so glad you had a great doctor! People often hear horror stories about bad doctors and your story about having a good one I think help dispel some of the stigma and fear surrounding getting the proper help.
Ashley Smith said…
I am thankful I had a great doctor too! I agree with you K.C. Jones.
helenasmole said…
I have a great doctor too. It's a blessing. I had very similar problems with accepting the illness and with the side effects. How familiar!

Thanks for sharing!
Helena Smole
peer-to-peer in mental health
Tabatha gates said…
I am 20 years old and my whole life ive been diagnosed with mental disorders. I been in and out of psyciatric hospitals since I was 13. I Was a cutter for 4 years until it went too far and I went too deep ending in almost 40 stiches going up and down my arm. It ended with a major hospitaliztion,hurt my family and scarred my body for the rest of my life. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia among the other disorders I already had when I was 14. I have recently moved to a new city and cant see my doctor until june. Im out of meds and my thoughts are paranoid and disorganized and I cant think straight nor act right. I am hurtin everyone around me. Is there anything I can do for my disorder until I see my doctor....PLEASE HELP ME.....IM VERY DESPERATE TO FIND AN ANSWER BEFORE I RUIN MY AND EVERYONES AROUND ME LIFE!!!!! -Tabatha Gates tx
Ashley Smith said…
Hi Tabatha,

I hope this message finds you in time, I so sorry for the delay.

I strongly encourage you to visit an emergency room and share your concerns with the medical staff so that they can refer you to treatment and meds. Also, you may call a Georgia crisis line and let them refer you to the treatment you need, the number is: 1.800.715.4225.

Best regards,

Ashley Smith

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