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Hope for the New Average

Despite the many deaths cancer takes each year, hope for recovery continues to play a role in the ongoing treatment and attitude of its victims and survivors. In fact, I have a close connection to the devastating toil breast cancer and other types of cancer has taken on my family. Although cancer and mental illness are very different I believe that same hopeful prognosis should be practiced for people diagnosed with mental illness, especially schizophrenia. It seems that nowadays treatment for mental illness can and does enable people to live a quality life. However, this message is not presented to the public. Instead, treatment for schizophrenia is rarely advertised, and thus, hope and life after diagnosis continues to be a myth to many.

A couple of years ago a family member believed that there was no hope for people living with schizophrenia and shared his beliefs with a room full of trainees in the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. This training educates law enforcement on how to deescalate crisis situations with people who have mental illness. Shortly after the family member made those comments I shared my story. His perception dramatically changed after hearing my testimony, and he reached out to me and applauded my efforts to maintain recovery.

No matter how severe the mental illness, I believe there is hope for recovery. At one point in my life I was very suspicious and did not trust anyone, not even family members and close friends. My paranoia led to my almost life-threatening practice of turning away food and drink over fear that "they" (meaning everybody) tried to poison me. The illness took over and denied me to right to move, I stayed in one position without understanding of the length of duration that passed. Bystanders went on about their routine until they took notice that I had not moved an inch for comfort, or to itch, nothing, which concerned them very much. I do not know how long this routine went on but I can recall having racing thoughts or strangely no thoughts at all. Medical staff rushed me to the emergency room to keep me hydrated and alive by use of an IV and fluids. Looking back I can imagine how my future may have looked dreary, however, I had a few hopeful doctors who saw beyond my then current situation and tried their best to make my recovery a reality.

Recovery is my current reality. My recovery is not a rare phenomenon, I have a few friends who also have schizophrenia among other mental illnesses and are enjoying life managing their condition. Finally, my hope is for medical teams and families to keep hope alive for people diagnosed with mental illness. I am one of the many individuals managing schizophrenia. I am not the first and I am not the last, I am the new average.


withallmyheart said…
Ashley - Thank you for your vibrant descriptions of your schizophrenic illness. I know you have survived and thrived, and I am so proud of the work you do. My own illness is schizoaffective d/o. I am inspired by your work. Today's entry into your blog helped me understand your paranoia and your experience of what I imagine was catatonia. I am so grateful for you. We look forward!

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