I wrote this article for NAMI- Athens Ohio. To listen to the radio interview hosted by Tom Walker click here.
For me, understanding of my mental health condition enables me to move forward in my recovery. A combination of acceptance, support, and treatment; and faith, motivates me to strive for well-being, which is a sense of normalcy in spite of my preexisting medical concern.
How am I overcoming schizophrenia? My journey is an ongoing process that I will continue to thrive on not only for myself, but for my family, peers, and community. Now, I will share with you how I've mastered my recovery of mental health and am living a normal life.
Since my diagnosis of a serious mental illness- schizophrenia- in 2007, I've learned to cope with my condition and to keep a good attitude no matter how individuals living with or without a mental health challenge view the concern. Getting to this level of comfort was not easy. In short, I've battled housing discrimination, social judgment, and self-stigma, among misconceptions of the community made known through uneducated comments and beliefs in response to my recovery experience, and the illness in general.
Although acceptance of schizophrenia came early for me, in the initial stages of diagnosis and treatment, I could not have overcome so much in a speedy manner without the support of my treatment team, mother and family, peers, and faith, that I will manage my life once again. For me, getting support required an open mind, willingness to share personal experiences, and offer support to peers and other individuals effected by mental illness. Support from a range of connections was crucial to me because I needed a cheerleader (medial staff, family, peers, and supporter, etc.) on my side to keep hope alive and to also let me know that recovery is possible.
Although I am on medication to help treat my mental illness, among other treatments including therapy and support groups, I understand there are alternative treatments available and unique ways to reach peace and well-being living with mental health. I am an advocate for whatever healthy coping mechanism works for my peer.
The underlying factor that helped me accept my schizophrenia was faith in a higher power and a purpose in my life to assist others in recognizing there is life after a difficult challenge such as a medical concern like mental illness. In fact, when I was diagnosed and in the hospital a few years ago my mother told me that I will be an evangelist and share my experience with the community. Back then I did not know how I would share my recovery story, but my faith has always led me in each avenue I took to help benefit individuals by sharing my life dealing with this medical condition.
I was featured in a documentary, along with two individuals living with schizophrenia, that was produced by Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. called, Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery. I've personally traveled to and spoke to communities in Canada and across the United States. My story was also presented on CNN and BET.com among several other media channels. Now, I share my recovery experience with law enforcement and facilitate workshops to support peers and family members effected by mental health.
My hope is schizophrenia will be viewed as a manageable medical condition and that understanding will flourish and ultimately reduce widespread misconceptions and myths. It is an honor to share my life with schizophrenia in our community and abroad. I plan to write a book about my experiences and to manage a wellness center for individuals effected by mental health.
To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Choices in Recovery, and Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).