Patient Blogs | Schizophrenia
Complementary Therapies Help Me Live Well With Schizophrenia
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Over the 17 years I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, I have found that staying on my medications and actively participating in therapy is key to my wellness. I also use complementary treatments and additional therapies to help me manage my symptoms in between my traditional therapy sessions.

Nine years ago, I began working again after successfully graduating from college. Due to my auditory hallucinations, it can be hard to focus on my work sometimes, and the medications that help to manage my symptoms come with side effects as well.

I have always struggled with my weight throughout my life, and I have type 2 diabetes. One of my psychiatric medications adds to this physical complication and makes me very fatigued throughout the day. I would become so fatigued that I would have trouble staying awake during work hours.  

A co-worker of mine suggested I might want to contact my psychiatrist about tweaking my medication dosage and call my therapist about coping strategies. She also said that while she had a primary care physician, she was also seeing a functional medicine doctor as well and maybe I might want to give that a try.

I was hopeful that the functional medicine doctor would be able to help me with my fatigue so I would not have to make many changes to my psychiatric medications. My appointment with the functional medicine doctor lasted an hour and a half, and she took into consideration my diet, genetics, hormonal changes, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and other lifestyle components to make an initial assessment before ordering extensive blood work.

The results from the blood work came back 3 weeks later, indicating that I had candidiasis, which my doctor believed was causing the fatigue. The doctor prescribed me an antifungal medication, probiotics, and dietary supplements, and put me on a strict diet to starve the yeast of the sugars that makes the yeast multiply.

I looked over the diet and I was to cut out all carbohydrates and foods high in fungal content (like yeast and cheese, among others). I was also to cut out all grains, fruit, and dairy products except for plain yogurt with live active cultures during the start of the diet to be added back in over time as I got better. While the diet program was strict, it did seem to work, and I was able to regain my energy.

I also discussed using art therapy techniques to help with my difficulty focusing at work with my therapist. I was excited to add art therapy back into my treatment plan as I have used it before during previous hospitalizations. It was a perfect way to deal with side effects of my psychiatric medications such as lethargy. Activities such as doodling or drawing help to keep my mind active. So at times when I begin to feel like my auditory hallucinations are making it difficult to focus, I will redirect myself to 10 minutes of drawing or art journaling to help me regroup before getting back to work.

Both art therapy and functional medicine have helped bring positive changes into my life. I still use different art therapy techniques to help me to focus and manage stress. I have also developed self-awareness, explore emotions, address unresolved emotional conflicts, improve social skills, and raise self-esteem through engaging in art therapy.

If you are going to add any complementary treatments or additional therapies, do your homework and investigate the most recent information that you can find on the treatment or therapy you are interested in. I would recommend you consult with your psychiatrist, primary care physician, and therapist and get a referral before making any changes to your treatment regimen. Especially if changes in diet or medication are involved.


Photo Credit: golubovy/iStock via Getty Images

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Lisa Guardiola

Lisa Guardiola

Diagnosed since 2004

Lisa Guardiola has been living with schizophrenia for 17 years. Passionate about helping others with mental illness, Guardiola is a community outreach and education trainer for the Sertoma Centre and the Vice President of NAMI South Suburbs of Chicago, where she leads educational and training initiatives. She loves journaling, oil painting, and spending time with her family and cat Loki. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

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