I did not know anything about mental illness before I experienced a nervous breakdown 2 weeks after my 14th birthday on a cold February winter day in 1995. I am a person living with Schizophrenia.
After I got out of the hospital after my initial breakdown I saw a psychiatrist. She was a kind woman who I remember encouraged my parents to keep me out of the hospital. I saw her for medication and therapy and I saw her until I was nineteen years old after that I was told she moved to another state.
Once I was in my 20s I guess my life revolved around my immediate close relatives and finishing school. I was a student at Mercer and I loved Mercer. I graduated at the age of 26. I’m a proud alumna Class of 2007. My symptoms were usually sleepless nights/insomnia, fear of the dark, seeing mean faces in my clothes and bedding and seeing or sensing humiliating things coming from my injured fragile mind. “I saw things no one else saw and I heard things no one else heard.”
Mental illness can be treated and I have Hope. Recovery is not “cured” though once you’ve accepted that you have a mental illness you have taken the most important step. I sought treatment and after a certain period of time I attended an adult partial care program called AAMH this stood for All Access Mental Health. I was there from May 2011 through October 2012 for a period of 15 months or more. Now I am on my way to recovery and living a fuller life.
Recovery means taking my meds and taking care of myself. I can still have a full life but I will probably have to take medication for the rest of my life to manage my illness. The missing component for me since I got sick after I turned 14 was always the social component and social interaction outside of my family circle and friends of the family.
NAMI offered me that missing social component and a place to volunteer and be a consumer. At college I socialized only with people in my classes on smoke breaks or breaks and before class waiting for class to start. I couldn’t explain my illness to people who didn’t understand and I kept my illness as private as I possibly could. Sometimes I thought people who knew of me and who went to the school I went to Mercer County Community College talked about me as “krazy” girl behind my back to be mean.
After I transferred to New Jersey City University I had a memorable class with a professor whose name was Sam Leader; I know he liked me he was nice and he was from Isreal. He had told me after class one day that he had a brother with Schizophrenia. At college I talked more “friendly” with my professors than my classmates; for me it is nice since I am 32.
Today I lead a very satisfying life and I’ll be graduating from college next year but I’m keeping it real with myself because I realize my illness isn’t going away. I am learning to live with Schizophrenia. I never had another diagnosis every psychiatrist I ever saw diagnosed me as having Schizophrenia.
I have an aunt named Kay on my mom’s side who prays for me a lot and she believes deeply that miracles can happen and the power of God. I’m glad to be where I am period in my life right now. My family therapist told me about NAMI.
Four years ago I went to Bowling and Pizza and I was socializing with the group but felt out of my element. I struck up a conversation with a guy named Carey, he seemed nice and he’s a good friend of mine now. Carey, a friend Anastasia and I took a picture at the Holiday Party last year.
NAMI is like a 2nd home for me between my volunteer work and my involvement as a consumer I am always welcome with NAMI’s wonderful staff and with all of the people I call friends there. I feel less alone because I have NAMI Mercer and I am so involved with NAMI that NAMI enriches my quality of life. I’ve been involved with NAMI for 5 years and 2 years as a volunteer.