Hi, there. Thanks for visiting. I'm starting this blog as an advocate for mental and physical health. I'm a freelance writer and also own a home based medical transcription business. I was diagnosed in 1978 with paranoid schizophrenia and started to become acutely ill three years prior to that, unmedicated, frightened, confused, and in trouble with the law. I graduated from university with distinction the year I became ill. I've never regretted learning how to think at university. I struggled with my illness for 35 years and have reached the top of the mountain now, I think, or the other side, where the grass is greener and the path easier. There's hope for all of us, the whole human race, and never think there isn't hope or joy no matter your circumstances. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with mental illness in all its forms: depression, brain injury, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, anxiety disorders, etc. and your positive experiences as well as those lies and half truths society and even therapists would have us believe about ourselves.

We are different folks, and we are beautiful. The whole human race is beautiful. Let's celebrate life.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Come out of the shadows

I've had various diagnoses throughout the past 32 years, including SAD, paranoid schizophrenia, schizoaffective, depression, and bipolar. Being misdiagnosed means not receiving the appropriate treatment. I was put on a medication for bipolar at one time which produced severe acne and necessitated frequent blood tests. This may not have been necessary, as I terminated the medication voluntarily with no ill effects. That being said, at the same time, I was on a handful of major tranquilizers, antidepressants, and a medication for side effects. No loss when I stopped the "mood stabilizer". I've heard this particular drug may be put in the drinking water of prisons to involuntarily "treat" the inmates who may exhibit signs of a mood disorder and disrupt the system. Is this true? I don't know.

I'm speaking here of the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was misdiagnosed. A family member suggested massive doses of vitamins at one time, something she'd read about, and I did receive ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) in the early 1980s because of suicidal ideation. I read a book once called, "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" which I thought was excellent, although it is fiction, and mentioned it to a family member, who thought instead a book about depression was more appropriate for me. So many people who thought they knew better than I about the machinations of the illness within me. At one time I was told by a minister I "couldn't work, of course". I was told by a social worker I don't "have" schizophrenia, I "am" schizophrenic. The same social worker sadly shook his head and said "I'm sorry to hear that" when I told him my diagnosis. My psychiatrist told me I was doing well by "coping" when I told him I was on a plateau and wanted to be self actualized, a term I'd studied in university. He told me I should be satisfied with coping. I was told by staff in a psychiatric hospital that I would be in and out of mental hospitals for the rest of my life. I haven't been hospitalized since 1990, when I stopped taking my medication for a couple of months just prior to that, a very big mistake. I've faithfully taken a depot injection every two weeks for 20 years since that time, never missing an injection.

Medication is very important but it's not the whole story. My psychiatrist was partially correct -- I learned to cope and then went beyond that to the joyous and self actualized life which I enjoy now. It took a lot of effort and a lot of trial and error, and much understanding on the part of therapists, family, and friends. Much effort, some misunderstandings, much forgiveness on all sides. I've worked even while I was in a hospital, taking a bus to my place of employment for a part time position, and returning to the hospital at night. I've owned my own successful medical transcription business for more than 11 years now. I'm a published author. I have a university degree with distinction. I'm respected and almost no one would suspect I have a mental illness. I usually tell them. There are few secrets in my world. But there was a time when I hid it; when I was frightened to be "found out"; when I was ashamed and kept my illness a secret. It's an illness like arthritis or diabetes; can be debilitating, but properly treated and with medication, a person can live a normal, fulfilling, and joyous life.

I don't want to make it sound as though I don't sometimes struggle. Even often. The darkness closes in on occasion. But doesn't everyone struggle? A wise man once said the majority of people "live lives of quiet desperation". If that's true, my illness has given me an appreciation of the peaceful valley beyond the rough slopes. Are they taking the word "normal" out of the dictionary? I don't think they should. But really, the degrees of "normal" are almost infinite. Is anyone really normal? And what about the millions with disabilities? Some have spokespersons like Rick Hansen or Christopher Reeves or Helen Keller. Who speaks for us? We must come out of the shadows. A man by the name of Bill MacPhee came out of the shadows. Successful, dynamic, and a businessman who owns a publishing company and spends much of his time as a speaker and entrepreneur, I don't know Bill as well as I would like to, but I came across his name when I submitted an article to his magazine (SZ Magazine), and was privileged to share a couple of emails with him. He is my hero. Bill has schizophrenia, was hospitalized six times, attempted suicide once, spent time in three group homes. He pulled himself together, let's say, in a way that only those of us who share the same diagnosis can appreciate as superlative. There are others. Who are you? What are your stories? Will you share? And what of those whose illness manifests itself more insidiously, negatively, with more dark power? There's hope.

There's a cliche. Come out of the shadows. Well, then.

Come out of the shadows.

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