The Process of Recovery

I’ll be the first to tell you that recovery from schizophrenia or any other major mental illness is a very long process, it can take years to get stable, if actual stability is even real.

It’s important to work at it though and be cognizant of the steps you are taking to improve your mental health.

I’d even go so far as to say it’s not so much a process but a journey with the ultimate goal of feeling comfortable in your own skin and in society.

I think I’m at a pretty good point right now, my meds are doing their job for the most part, I haven’t had an episode in about 3 months and I’m slowly getting a better handle on my anxiety.

Granted I don’t go out in public that often and when I do, I usually have to contend with paranoia but in all respects, I feel ok right now and that’s the most I can ask for.

It has taken me 17 years so far to get to this point of relative comfort but along the way, I have learned who I am as a person, what my triggers are, what I do and don’t feel comfortable with and what to do in triggering situations.

I have also amassed a pretty expansive bag of “tools” for dealing with paranoia, anxiety, depression, mania, really anything that comes up so I have a method to cope.

That said, it’s very easy to lose yourself in moments and I still do pretty often.

My point of all this is to illustrate that I still struggle daily with my illness, but 17 years out, I’m used to most of what can happen and it doesn’t affect me nearly as much as it did when I was first diagnosed.

It’s true that I am not what you would consider “healed” but I think the reality of it is that I never will be and the most I can do for myself is to try to build a quiet comfortable life where my symptoms are minimal and I feel at peace.

Recovery from mental illness is not what most neurotypical people would think of as recovery, in that, barring some incredible medical discovery, major mental illness can’t be cured.

The most we can hope for is to find a measure of comfort and stability where are symptoms aren’t affecting us too badly.

That, to me, is success when you’re living with schizophrenia.

It ultimately comes down to learning about, and eventually finding out who you are to the best of your ability.

This includes your preferences, the things that set you off, your fears, the things you’re proud of, your accomplishments and just what exactly makes you tick as a person.

If you know yourself well, you can anticipate and prepare for those moments and situations that might knock you off your game.

You can have the confidence of knowing that whatever happens, you are still you, you are still the person that you have found yourself to be.

In this, if you do get knocked around and lose yourself mentally for a little while, you can always come back to your baseline of who you know you are.

It’s a strange situation living like this and although I don’t want to sound like a life coach, if you know yourself, You know what you can handle.

I think that is essentially stability, or recovery in the most understandable terms.

If you’re not there yet, give yourself time and patience, rely on your support structure and know that whatever happens, you are not alone.

Is Recovery Possible?

I was diagnosed schizophrenic in 2006, it’s been almost seventeen years now that I’ve lived with this devil on my shoulder, and the verdict is, unfortunately, still out on whether or not I’ve fully recovered.

I still have days, weeks, months where I feel the brunt of my mental illness, but for all intents and purposes, I suppose I present normally to the outside world.

That is, if you met me today, would you be able to tell that I have schizophrenia? My loved ones say no but I still feel every odd slight, every weird little idiosyncrasy that hints at something majorly wrong behind the curtain.

That may be just anxiety rearing it’s ugly head but there are moments where the reality of my diagnosis is made keenly apparent to me.

I still struggle tremendously with paranoia, the notion that someone is watching me, dissecting every move and action I take to find something to hurt me or to use against me. I’ve said before that if there were Oscars for real life I’d win for best actor every year. Acting though, is not something that I like to do, especially for the benefit of any suspected character who has decided to act in bad faith. I want things to flow, I wanna be natural and easy but unless I trust you inherently, I’m not letting down my guard.

As you can imagine this has been a pretty big lynchpin when it comes to things like job interviews, dates, or even merely just making new friends. Sadly, If I don’t know you, chances are, that I’m terrified of you.

With all this said, it seems pretty clear that I’m not entirely recovered from my illness doesn’t it? That’s the standard I set for myself. I will be recovered when I can feel at ease around people I don’t know. It’s hard to say if that will ever truly happen.

I’ve often looked at my illness as a second life, removed from the life I had before I was diagnosed. Interestingly, I’ve equated the last sixteen years to being a second childhood, if that makes sense.

I was thrust out into the world after being told everything I thought I knew was fake and I feel as though I’ve had to rebuild my sense of being and my personhood from scratch, zip, zero. This being the sixteenth year I’ve had schizophrenia, I am now essentially a sixteen year old in the way I feel I’m interacting with the world.

I don’t really know how else to explain it other than a hard reset and a total and complete system reboot and rebuild.

Will I ever fully recover? That remains to be seen, but for now, I’ve got the things I need, and I’m comfortable with my life and the way it’s gone.

It seems strange, but I remain thankful that I was given this mental illness. It’s taught me some very, very valuable lessons. It’s given me a razor sharp self awareness and understanding of who I am as a person, and it’s forced me to give regular and rigorous introspection a major place in my life.

It has also taught me empathy, perhaps more so than I want. I understand that on a deep level, everyone is constantly evaluating and judging themselves and that everyone, regardless of circumstance, deserves respect and care.

So is recovery even fully possible? I don’t know, but I’m steadfast in improving myself in anyway I can as the years go by and honestly, normality is probably an illusion anyway.