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).