Surviving Schizophrenia: A Journey

Please note: This is a guest blog from Rebecca at “A Journey With You”. I hope that you’ll take the time to make a comment of encouragement to our author. After all, it takes some courage to step up and write. Thank you!

red couch

I grew up in a small town. We were poor, and my dad was an alcoholic.  In the mid-seventies, when I was eleven, my mom and dad got divorced. My mom married my step dad and we began a completely new life. My step dad was a civil engineer and changed jobs frequently so we moved a lot. I ended up graduating from high school in Cairo Egypt.

After high school, I attended college in Washington State.  I changed colleges three times before graduating with a BA from The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was in my mid-twenties.  I was a social worker for child protective services, and my marriage to my college sweetheart was falling apart. I remember telling my husband at the time that something was wrong, and I wanted to talk about it. He said, “If there is something wrong, it is with you, because I think everything is fine.”

His statement seemed so final and dismissive.

It wasn’t long after his shutting me and my concerns down that I moved out.

I moved into a little attic apartment that I called my treehouse and I bought a bright red couch. I had once asked my husband if we could have a red and white checkered bathroom and he said no, that he didn’t want to look at that every day.  Buying that red couch was my way of stepping out in the world.

My husband’s favorite color was brown. I threw out everything brown.

At the time, I was writing poetry and getting it published in university journals and other magazines. I was really starting to come out as an artist. I was in therapy. I had many friends.

I made a couple of bad choices regarding men and those relationships ended up putting me on a stressed out downward spiral.

It took a year or more of that extreme stress for my mental health to begin to deteriorate.  I ended up psychotic.

When I first became psychotic, I thought that someone was drugging me. I thought all the fears, all the sweats, all the paranoia and inability to sleep were due to a drug that someone was giving me.  I had no idea that I was experiencing a psychotic episode.

Because I was a social worker, I knew all the laws about involuntary and voluntary commitments so when my family tried to intervene and get me into a psych hospital, I just said I wasn’t a danger to myself or others.  I also lied about the extreme paranoia I was experiencing.

After visiting many hospitals and many attempts, I voluntarily signed myself into a psych ward. By then, I was so psychotic that they kept me isolated for three to five days (I can’t remember the length) before letting me out in the general population.  By then, the medications they had me on had started to ease the symptoms of psychosis.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features.  That diagnosis would stick for almost ten years. Later, I would be told I was well and taken off all medication (which led to a psychosis that lasted six months), and then I was diagnosed schizoaffective and eventually I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

It is still amazing to me that people can be in college, or working at their career and then end up with the symptoms of a severe mental illness.  It can knock people out of their prime with a speed that takes the wind out of everyone around.

I am happily married now, in treatment, and getting some of my poetry published again.  It took a long time to get the correct diagnosis, treatment, and get my life back on track.  I am happy to report that the stereotypes and stigma around paranoid schizophrenia are not accurate. I am living a meaningful life. I still have symptoms of my illness, and I miss the twenty-something woman I once was and the path she was on, but there are new paths and I plan to put one foot in front of the other and forge a new way.

I am currently trying to devote my time to writing. I attend both a poetry and memoir writing group, and instead of traditional therapy, I have a writing coach that is a LMFT, of course I see a psychiatrist and take my medication as if my life depended upon it, because in a very real way, it does.

I blog because I want to educate people about paranoid schizophrenia, be an advocate, and practice my writing.  It is wonderful to interact with so many amazing people.  If you have the time, come and be a part of my journey at http://www.ajourneywithyou.com

I hope to hear from you.

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