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The Technique That Helped My Schizoaffective Disorder Recovery

How did I recover from schizophrenia? I’ve not fully healed, but I live a life I love and would like to share my story.

18 years ago, I struggled with a terrible episode of psychosis. My whole life and family were thrown into complete turmoil because of my mental illness. The time I spent in the psychiatric hospital away from my newborn baby and husband was traumatic, and it ultimately ruined my marriage. So on top of schizophrenia, I developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression.

It’s been a long, long, journey of recovery. Before my illness, I had no trouble working or making money. I had just gotten married, life was so happy… then everything was very suddenly turned upside-down. I had to leave my job to get psychiatric treatment. Then I found out I was pregnant. After treatment, I was never allowed back at my job. My husband hated “mental patients;” he literally told the neighbor that he was, “embarrassed to have a ‘mental’ for a wife.” He left me and our son. With my debilitating anxiety, I was unable to care for my son. Luckily, my parents were willing to step in and take on his guardianship. The doctors told me there was no cure and I’d be on medications for the rest of my life.

Even though I took my medications and met with professionals for years, I continued to struggle with anxiety. I’ve been fired from dozens of jobs over the years, trying my hardest, but never being able to support myself. Living alone was not easy.

The brain takes years to heal from trauma. Medications are and will always be a part of my daily routine. Since there is not a known cure, I concede that I will always need them; however, that does not mean I have not recovered from schizophrenia. I function as well as almost anyone, my mental health is stable and I’m satisfied with my life.

The brain takes a long time to heal, but with work, persistence, practice and patience, I succeeded, and I continue to succeed. You can, too. More on that below.

Hope, fulfillment and success are possible with mental illness. It’s important to keep busy, keep hope, keep setting goals and keep trying.

Recovery is a hard journey. Even in the face of failure after failure, it’s possible to stay positive and keep trying. You may lose faith in yourself from time to time. There may be times that you hate yourself and blame yourself for all your problems. I know all too well what that is like.

What has helped me the most was actually my deepest low, when I was locked in a room of seclusion at a psychiatric hospital. You know what  happened after that? Time moved on. I fell asleep and woke up the next morning. Things improved, bit by bit.

Back to the topic: how to heal your brain after a mental health struggle. Work, persistence, practice, tenacity and patience.

Have something to focus on and think about. Try to better yourself. Here’s where learning new things can help.

Taking in new ideas and integrating them into how you operate grows the hippocampus (a part of your brain that plays a role in learning and memory), thereby improving your memory and your ability to learn.

Reading at least 15 minutes every day also flexes what I call the “brain muscle”… you know the old saying, “If you don’t use it you lose it?” That saying applies to muscles that atrophy and weaken when not used.

Don’t expect learning to be easy.

Learning about something I’m interested in has helped improve my daily life by putting new skills to use, resulting in income as well. While unemployed on social assistance, I took online courses and read books on customer service, business, money, web-design, copy-writing, sales, management, marketing, communication skills and other personal development topics.

At first, I struggled to comprehend what I was reading. Communicating with others and retaining information was very difficult for me. When reading, it would take me five minutes or more to get through a single page, and I would get mad at myself for not retaining what I read. But I promised myself I’d read at least 15 minutes every day, and forced myself to keep trying, even through the difficulty.

It didn’t take long before my focus and short-term memory improved. I was communicating better with people in my daily life, setting goals and feeling way more positive about myself.

Feel good about failure. Learn from it! I am no stranger to failing. Over the years I’ve made some poor decisions, even hit bottom and felt utterly defeated. Life is hard, but the journey every day can be such an adventure!

When you fail, you learn what doesn’t work! That’s progress!

Life goes on. Every morning brings a new day, and a new chance to try again, or to try something new.

Follow-through is hard for me. I have difficulty sticking with something through to completion. I have a hard time keeping a conventional job. Often afraid of performing on a schedule, and work pressure stresses the crap out me, my anxiety can be overwhelming.

That’s OK, though. I know that as I continue to challenge myself, keep reading and learning, I’ll have everything I need to succeed. Eventually I’ll be supporting myself, free of welfare, free to travel without work pressure and live a lifestyle most “normal” people only dream of. That’s the hope, anyway, what I am working towards.

Life always gets better. Time always moves on. I’ve learned to take comfort in this: it all comes to pass. Bad, good, everything; that is the nature of existence. Whatever bad happens, know that it is not permanent, and you’ll have better days, so take heart. Whatever good happens, know that it is not permanent, so appreciate every good moment to the fullest.

I’ve already succeeded. I may still be on welfare, but I’m making progress and doing something I care about: helping people. Using my knowledge, feeling fulfilled.

Living the good life is not about reaching your long-term or money goals; it’s about happiness and fulfillment along the way. Financial freedom is not as important as some would have you believe. If you can find and achieve a purpose in your daily life, working towards your long-term goals, you are succeeding.

If a goal doesn’t work out, just create a new goal. Live in a way you are proud of, and cut yourself slack if you need rest or want to hide from the world. Go ahead, take a nap. Make a salad. Call your mom. Do whatever makes you happy.

Success is not about achievement or money; your family, your physical, mental and emotional health are always more important. It’s about carrying on in spite of hardship, keeping faith and doing something you believe in. It’s being the person you want to be.

Don’t get me wrong; setting and achieving goals are important parts of success, but because tomorrow is never guaranteed. Make success about the journey, not the destination.

While you may not be able to completely heal from schizophrenia, as long as you faithfully take anti-psychotic medication, aim for positivity and a dedicated attitude, you can heal, grow and accomplish anything you put your mind to. Take heart!

Hopefully my writing has inspired you. Your renewed hope has been my goal.

I look forward to reading and responding to comments.


This story originally appeared on Growth Paths.

Photo by Naitian(Tony) Wang via Unsplash.