My name is Steve, and I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in April of 1997. It was four years after I graduated from college, and I could not hold a steady job.
Mental Illness has been a challenge for me, but one I feel I am overcoming. NAMI has given me stability and satisfaction that I did not have before. Due to stigma, my life was limited and empty. I barely left the house for two years. Learning about my illness and meeting others with similar challenges enabled me cope and gradually move forward.
I have paranoid schizophrenia. My first episode was almost a year ago. It was terrifying and the worst experience of my life. I was stressed out with school and wasn’t getting much sleep. One day I woke up and I was completely delusional. I was confused and I knew something wasn’t right with me. I could not figure out what was true from what wasn’t true. I thought there were cameras all over my apartment that were watching me and broadcasting everything I did on TV. I thought that everything I said was being recorded and would be used against me. I thought I was a threat to national security. I thought a lot of things were happening when they really weren’t. I was hospitalized for a week as the doctors tried to find a medication that would work for me. My diagnosis was a brief episode of psychosis. The medicine that worked for me treats schizophrenia.
Now almost a year later the medicine continues to work. I will be graduating college summa cum laude with high honors. I have lots of friends and I enjoy life. Schizophrenia is not the dreaded disease that it used to be. For me, it’s completely manageable as long as I take my medication. There is hope.
I was awarded as a BayNews9 Everyday hero, seen by two million people, for making a full recovery from paranoid schizophrenia, becoming a published author, and speaking on a national basis to help end the stigma on mental illness. I’m an African American woman that’s speaking out about how to overcome a debilitating mental illness and reach your dreams regardless of the disability.
When I have difficulty in my daily surroundings, certain things happen that lead to trauma. Everything is upside down and it seems like things are falling apart all around me. And thoughts are all inside my mind and I don’t know or understand why.
Then I can’t take it anymore. Finally I have to go to the doctor. I sometimes try to explain and the doctor doesn’t know how or what is happening to me. Then I am told that I have a mental disorder. I don’t want to believe what has been diagnosed and I’m in denial. It could take a while for me to believe. This could go on for some time and I may need to take medicine. I may need a little more help with or without a hospital stay.
Denial can be more serious than one thinks. Family members can help, but sometimes they can’t. It depends on the one who has the illness. The main thing is that I get the help that is needed. I also must want to help myself. Remember this is the first step to start getting better. There is also help even for my own denial. But I am still not ready to believe in myself. Only time will tell with the help I am getting from my spouse and doctors.
I’m not sure my story will inspire anyone but I hope it will at least inspire my city’s officials to reach out to the the children with mental illness and their families.
I am a single mother with four boys, three of whom have mental illness and/or other disabilities, and my family and especially my children have been nothing but neglected, abused, ignored, accused, shunned, and treated as is invisible in my city.
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