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My Progress into Independence and Recovery

I've been in recovery for over five years and have learned a lot about it along with my peers. To me, crucial steps to recovery are consistency, risk-taking, and trust. An individual must be willing to participate in their recovery and hold trust in their treatment team and treatment regimen- whatever that is. Before they get to a place of cooperation one must step outside of their comfort parameters trust their treatment team, and do something different to help themselves in recovery, and to also maintain that new lifestyle.

For me, that was going to support groups. When I moved back to Atlanta I didn't have resources to engage in quality outpatient treatment programs, but I did have access to mental health care which I did take advantage of. I got involved in a patient assistance program by the pharmaceutical company and took part in the support groups led by my therapist in my local treatment center. I went there to 1) get out of my house, 2) socialize with people, and 3) to learn more about my diagnosis. And a few years later I still participate in support groups which has helped my recovery tremendously.

Although recovery is challenging it does get easier with time. My biggest struggles were accepting life-long treatment, not being able to go back to work, and putting independent living on hold to recuperate. Today, I've managed to overcome most of these challenges. However, I still have concerns with medication compliance. Despite these concerns I've managed to take my medication for three consecutive weeks and I take pride in my daily successes.

Sometimes I have to take a step back and appreciate my daily accomplishments such as taking my medication on time, doing the dishes and other housework, and carrying out assignments promised to others. Completing these tasks could be challenging especially when depression creeps up on me and motivation becomes an issue, or I forget to do things.

Despite my initial struggles I've learned that I can go back to work, and volunteering has been my bridge and experience to get back into the workplace. Now, I've been living independently for three years- making arrangements for myself and paying utility bills and rent, and I am so proud of myself! Getting to independent living was a process- I stayed in a residential program for almost a year and then with my mother again, where I did contribute to the rent.

Today, I mentor peers in recovery by example. I encourage peers to take risks and to engage in advocacy for others. And I am enjoying life in recovery! Despite all the stigma around schizophrenia I surround myself with supportive people and networks. I am overcoming schizophrenia!

My next steps are to find permanent employment with benefits in mental health advocacy and to get off of disability income. I would like to be a homeowner and I believe this is attainable. I think my progress into independence and recovery is ongoing, however these successes can deteriorate if I do not stay compliant on my treatment plan, trustworthy of my treatment team, or stop taking risks that better my recovery lifestyle.

How have you, or your loved one, taken risks in recovery? What are your next steps in recovery?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit NAMI, Choices in Recovery, and Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).


Chris said…
Hi Ashley,

You CAN own a home in the future. Most likely Atlanta and thereabouts is cheaper than NYC.


Keep your Credit Score at 760 or higher to get the best mortgage rate.

Place at least 20 percent down to avoid PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance)

The higher the downpayment: the lower the monthly mortgage.

Housing costs should total no more than 28 percent of your income. Housing costs AND other debt TOGETHER should be no more than 36 percent of your income.

Saving $20/every two weeks and consistently socking away money without having to withdraw it to live on: is better than trying to say $100 every two weeks and having to take some of that money to live on.

Carrying credit card debt is unnecessary and will cause you to have trouble maintaining a 760 Credit Score or higher.

Before you even consider buying a house: Have at least 8 months to 1 year worth of money in an emergency fund for living expenses should you go into the hospital, have another medical emergency or lose your job for a stretch or have unforeseen emergencies.

That's what I can tell you right now.

I wish you all the best in your goal to own a home. I live in my own home so I know this is possible.

Bonus comment: allow your parents to help you with the downpayment if they want to. There's no shame in accepting money from Mom and Dad to buy your home.

Anonymous said…
I just found your blog. Thank you for writing it. My son, 18, was just diagnosed. So I am going through a myriad of feelings. But you give me hope and the strength I need to help pull us through on this journey. :)
Anonymous said…
First of all, I'd just like to say: your blog is really impressive and well-written. I'm really happy that you are in recovery and that you are writing about it so that others can gain positive insight into this very important topic. Congratulations and thank you!

I suffer from schizoaffective disorder, which is a grouping of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I would say that I am in recovery also, and am able to live a normal life and work as a professional, thanks to the effectiveness of the medication I take and my support network.

One of the risks I took in recovery was coming off the medication Olanzapine, which was causing me problems with my weight and energy levels. It was a risk because I wasn't sure if Risperodone would be as affective for me in dealing with my symptoms, and the change could have led to serious problems. After some initial difficulty, I am now on a high dose of Risperodone and it is keeping me well and letting me function normally.

My next step in recovery is to try and arrange a talking therapy: it seems very difficult in the UK to get a psychotherapist on the public health service that we have here. So I may have to go private, but luckily I have a job that pays enough so that I can afford it. I want the therapy to cover CBT for Psychosis, as that has been proven to be helpful as a coping technique for psychosis.

When properly supported, I believe that people with schizophrenia can lead normal lives and work as well (if not better) than those without mental health problems. I work as a software engineer for a major UK television broadcaster, and some of my work has featured on TV. My employer is very understanding about disabilities, and there are other employers out there that will be as supportive. So I think that it can be a reasonable goal to be able to be self-supporting and even own a home. Indeed, we have just bought a flat in the area, and will be moving in over the next few weeks.

Keep doing what you are doing and you will be able to achieve your goals! :)

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