I want to share some things with you that may be helpful in your recovery- First, having a diagnosis of mental illness does not have to limit your life and your abilities. Back when I was institutionalized, I remember my state hospital doctor giving me hope by telling me I could go back to college, and that schizophrenia is a very manageable illness. I am here to tell you, you can do the same!- Whatever mental health condition you are living with- no, it most likely will not be easy everyday, but it gets better after you overcome the initial phases of self-doubt, denial, and loss. Yes, loss, one of my most difficult realities. My health temporarily caused me to either lose or distance myself from getting a higher education, friends, family, and ultimately my sanity and myself. However, after years of hard consistency, support, and awareness of my medical condition, I have gained all that back- schooling, new friends, family, and a new life!!
If I knew back then what I know now, I would've let my mother in on my medical condition sooner from a legal standpoint, so that she could be better knowledgeable of my mental illness and to make wise decisions for me. Opposite that, if you do not have a family member you feel comfortable making decisions for you, I suggest writing an Advance Directive or a living will, while you are well, that states your preferences in the situation of a crisis or where you cannot make decisions because of your mental illness.
Moreover, I would journal even more about my recovery including medications and other medical interventions such as alternative therapies and activities that I can master later on to help me cope with my schizophrenia. Journaling does not have to be long and have correct spelling- it is a book that allows you to speak freely whatever that definition is in your mind.
Lastly, I would come prepared to doctor visits with many questions on my medications and on my recovery such as will this medication put me at risk of gaining any additional medical concerns? Do you have any recommendations on how to get affordable medication and/or treatment? Is there an alternative to medication that will help me cope with my condition? What local groups or organizations are there to support my recovery? Are there peer-led groups I can participate in? (Note: I am neither for or against the treatment and use of medication, I support whatever works for the individual. However, I continue to take my medication because of its necessity and I do not want to make irrational choices that may limit my freedom and opportunities).
I hope these suggestions have opened your mind to more possibilities in your recovery and wellness. I believe we can "Overcome mental illness together!" by sharing experiences and making your recovery journey a priority despite setbacks such as insurance, discrimination, and lack of family support. I am very fortunate to have a strong support system, opportunities to move forward in my recovery, and faith that I will do well, now what are you going to do with this information?
Ashley Smith, Certified Peer Specialist
EMM Founder and Executive Director
P.S. I encourage you to comment on my blog entries, I often wonder if my story and suggestions are beneficial- to my peers, caregivers, and students and other interested parties- however, this information is not to replace professional medical advice. Thank you for reading!
To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc. (EMM), Choices in Recovery, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).