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Flying Over the Cuckoo’s Nest…Light at the End of the Tunnel

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In 1977, when I got my first diagnosis (reactive schizophrenia), the mental health field had emerged from the demonic possession model and from the bad old days of shock therapy and lobotomies, but the idea of recovery from mental illness was still not very well established.

I learned that I had a “sensitive nervous system” or a “fragile psyche” and that I would need to take medicine to address my biochemical imbalance and avoid stress at all costs.

It was not until 2007, thirty years later, that I finally heard the message that I could get better. Either I wasn’t told or I wasn’t listening. The antidepressant medications I received had enormous side effects and the tranquilizers were the closest approximation to effective treatment that I understood.

I believe that my recovery from mental illness began with the realization that recovery was possible. Bert Nash and RAHN were my messengers.

Recovery from mental illness is no picnic in the park, but it is infinitely better than continuing to live in desperation and misery.

I was told that I had four choices in how I responded to my situation: I could change the things that troubled me, change the way I felt about them, accept the world the way it was, or live the rest of my life in misery.

Having explored misery thoroughly, I was highly motivated to focus on the other three.

I came to understand that it was not possible to avoid stress, that the only way out was through, that changing my thoughts and actions was more powerful than medication for me, and that it would gradually bring about changes in my feelings.

If this all sounds pretty obvious to you, accept my congratulations. It was nothing short of an epiphany to me. And I am certainly not the only person to live in darkness. The stigma we bring on ourselves is far worse than the ignorance and prejudice we encounter from others.

I wish I could tell you that I was cured and lived happily ever after.

Actually, I continue to experience symptoms on a daily basis, continue to take prescribed medication, and continue to receive treatment, but the difference is that I have tools which allow me to cope far better than I did before.

For decades, with two master’s degrees and a solid work history, I was unable to maintain steady employment, even in the entry-level positions which I obtained because no one else wanted them. I am now working in my first executive position since 1987 and I am coping with stresses. Needless to say, my skills are a little rusty and my technological sophistication pretty primitive, but I can learn, I can change, and I can see a future much brighter than even a year or two ago.

It is as if the alligators have disappeared from my swamp. I have had some minor setbacks and may have major setbacks in the future, but I have enormous hope and at least a mustard seed of faith, and I have experiences I can share with others who are on a similar journey.

So, if no one else has told you, or if, like me, you couldn’t hear, let me tell you: RECOVERY FROM MENTAL ILLNESS IS POSSIBLE!

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The Recovery and Hope Network (RAHN) is a small yet wildly successful local nonprofit serving people with severe and persistent mental illness in Douglas County. Written by members and staff of RAHN (it’s pronounced “rain”), the purpose of this blog – Flying Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – is to educate people about mental illness and the possibility of recovery, to reduce fear and stigma, and to reach out to those in need and their families and friends, neighbors and coworkers.

1009 New Hampshire, Suites C & D
Lawrence, KS 66044

Tel: 785-856-1222
Email: info@recoveryandhope.org
Website: http://recoveryandhope.org
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Recovery-and-Hope-Network-RAHN/114529948569741
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Comments

LadyJ 4 years, 11 months ago

I wanted to congratulate you for taking the steps necessary to enable you to get where you are. The problem with most people with mental problems is that they won't take the medication or go to the mental health clinic on a regular basis so they can lead productive lives. I have a dear friend whose story is almost exactly like yours. She fights every day to maintain a normal life. Sometimes there are setbacks, but she never gives up. Best of luck.

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