Editor’s note: We got this recovery story from Jared, the webmaster of SchizLife.com. He’s a true mental health escapee or psych survivor, but we were his first contact with the recovery movement. We’ll repost his blog here with mental health civil rights information in brackets. This will be an interesting note to show the difference between mainstream mental health information, which was all Jared had found to this point. He’s progressing rapidly, though, now that he’s got contact with advocates who know a different type of schizophrenia recovery story.
We Fall to Gain a Frame of Reference – My Schizophrenia Recovery Story
When I think back on my schizophrenia recovery story, I always conjure up images of Icarus, attempting to soar to the sun without the proper tools and gear. It all started with an intense preoccupation with seeking the truth of reality. This meant a deep dive into philosophy, psychology, spirituality, mythology, and more. And after years of exploration in books, I gained access to psychedelics. [Here’s some fairly complete info on the risks and theoretical benefits of all types of drugs.]
Flying High and Proud, and Then the Wax Melts [see our own Icarus Project]
I had read much from the pop gurus of the 60’s and 70’s, such as Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, Terrence McKenna, and the rest of those guys proclaiming the insight-offering benefits of psychedelic usage. I had to try it. It wasn’t a recreational thing. I wanted to know more about me and the universe. And it was working! So of course, in true over-achiever fashion, I went in for the heroic dosage and it all came crumbling down.
What I thought was an acute psychotic break that may get better in a few weeks turned into a several year battle with generalized anxiety, depression, depersonalization, derealization, panic attacks, hallucinations, and other associated symptoms. I was able to see each symptom for what it was, but I couldn’t make out the forest from the trees until I received a diagnosis from a psychiatrist, a.k.a. an outside perspective. It was looking like schizophrenia to him! To me, I envisioned this as some kind of spiritual awakening and journey and I treated it as such. [Most people are not so able to ignore the doctor’s version when looking for a schizophrenia recovery story.]
Swimming in the Ocean with Mystics and Psychotics
My head was so crammed full of spiritual and religious ideas and training I had obtained from relevant books that I felt like I could manage this on my own, without medication or therapy. And I did, but it likely took a lot longer than it needed to take. [It’s also possible that if Jared had got on meds, he never would have recovered.] I believe that my life had always been below the societal baseline of normal happiness. And falling in this way showed me this. As unfortunate as this was, I now had a frame of reference. I guess rock bottom is good for something, huh? And with that, it was time to climb! I couldn’t find steps to follow, so I had to build my own schizophrenia recovery story.
Step One: Breaking Loops I had to stop reacting to fear and anxiety in order to stabilize my emotions and thoughts. This helped reduce the panic attacks. After a while, I was able to see the precursors to triggers arising and divert myself from that path. I was assigning myself my own cognitive-behavioral homework assignments and didn’t even realize it! [Our founder had make a similar step.]
Step Two: Live “As If” Despite the social anxiety, depression, anhedonia, and other symptoms, I had to remain active and involved. I could not detach myself and withdraw any longer. Waiting for these symptoms to subside wasn’t cutting it, so I acted as if they weren’t there and that pushed them out of the picture. There simply wasn’t going to be any place in my life for my own set of “crabs in a bucket.” For my schizophrenia recovery story, I had to live “as if” I already felt better. [Or as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy says, act opposite to current emotion.]
Step Three: find the positive. I needed to create meaning for my suffering. The dissociation was a blessing because I was gaining a different perspective on life and reality. The depersonalization allowed me to have an objective viewpoint of myself. The anxiety forced me to train my brain and reduce my “stinking-thinking.” The depression told me to get out there and be active. The hallucinations… well, they were interesting! I put a positive flip on everything and tried to turn it into a tool rather than a chained weight.
Soaring at a Comfortable Altitude
Now, I take things at an even pace. The middle path is for me. You can’t force a flower to bloom and you can’t grow faster than you grow. Removing this pressure from myself allowed me to relax. All of my homework assignments I gave myself helped reduce symptoms drastically. I still have slight hallucinations, and they are a reminder of my struggle and victory. Through my schizophrenia recovery story I have become a wiser, more compassionate and patient person. My relationships with people are better than ever because I was able to drop some of the previous filters of perception that made me see things in a black-or-white fashion.
Life is good now, and I’m actually taking an SSRI now for anxiety and depression to help keep things at a manageable level. People consider me mature, intellectual, and wise and have no clue about the personal journey I traversed in order to obtain those attributes. And that’s how it goes. We have to step up and take charge of our own lives. We have to manage our beliefs, views, behaviors, and contributions. We are all the center of our universe and have to call the shots. We are the directors and actors, but we also write the scripts and chose the outcome of our own schizophrenia recovery story (for the most part)!
Take charge, accept the challenge, and always try to emerge from the other side in a better position. It’s always forward progress if you choose it! And if you can, always try to pay it forward. For instance, I’m working on my website Schiz Life in order to share information on recovery for [people labeled as] schizophrenics who may feel more comfortable searching the internet than going to a psychiatrist. Make it available for people, and help reduce the stigma [of mental health labels]. Thanks for reading!