When I was diagnosed as a person living with schizophrenia, I had a very difficult time coming to terms with my disorder. It was not an easy pill to swallow, and for many years I struggled to find my way in the world and who I was as a person.
Unfortunately, the hospital ward psychiatrist who diagnosed me gave me no information about schizophrenia or what it meant to be living with the disorder. I had a very narrow view of what the disorder looked like. I thought people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia are crazy and I know that I’m not crazy.
These are some of the thoughts I was having: God had a destiny for me, and I was special and chosen to accomplish greatness. I am a direct descendant of Mary Magdalene. The government is watching me and trying to prevent me from succeeding in my goal. Celebrities want to be me and listen in on my phone conversations so they can steal my ideas to make themselves famous. Radio announcers and news casters speak to me directly to send me messages of protection from God. My guardian angel talks to me and tells me that all my thoughts are true and that I will persevere from persecution.
I was delusional, and my auditory hallucination was very pronounced, so I still believed that what I was experiencing was very real. I didn’t believe that anything was wrong. I saw myself as somehow detached or distanced from myself. While I existed in the world, I was not always rooted in reality, and that made it difficult for me to identify who I am and come to terms with living with schizophrenia.
After my first hospitalization, it took many years for me to believe that I was diagnosed with the disorder. I wish there was a magic pill that I could have taken to speed up the process, but that is not how it works. It takes at least 6 months for the medication to really start to take effect, and mental health recovery is a non-linear journey that takes time.
For the next 3 years, I attended a psychosocial rehabilitation program that assisted me in learning the signs and symptoms of my disorder, socialization skills, healthy boundaries, financial independence, and medication management. I began making art again and working toward going back to school. I took my medication faithfully and actively participated in my psych and therapy appointments.
My self-esteem started to come back after my enrollment to South Suburban Community College. I even made the honor roll and Dean’s list before transferring to Saint Xavier University and going on to graduate in 2012 with two bachelors’ degrees, one in psychology and one in studio arts. It was after graduation that I really began to come to terms with my diagnosis with schizophrenia. At that time, I was managing my symptoms well and in a good place in my recovery when I was able to look back on all I had accomplished despite my diagnosis.
Psychoeducation and having a solid support network of caring family, friends, and mental health professionals really made a difference in coming to terms with my diagnosis. I saw myself as a whole person living with a disorder that I could manage and would be living with for the rest of my life. My diagnosis of schizophrenia is an illness just like any other illness. Only my illness is not a physical one; it is an illness of the brain.
Living with schizophrenia is a big part of my life, but I am so much more than my diagnosis. I have faced many obstacles in my life but never let them deter me from wanting the best for myself. Every day is an opportunity to strive to be the best that I can be. Coming to terms with my diagnosis of schizophrenia was not a short or easy process, but in doing so, I was able to reclaim my life. Not the way it was before being diagnosed, but far better than I could have ever imagined.
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