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How I Began To Feel Brand New After My Schizophrenia Diagnosis Broke Me

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When I was younger, I do not remember any of my friends being diagnosed with a mental illness. One of my friends had attention deficit disorder (ADD) for which he was prescribed medication, but I knew no one who had a “serious mental illness.” No one in my family had a mental illness, so my perspective about mental illness was limited, at best. I now know that mental illness is all around us whether we acknowledge it or not. Some statistics say that one in four people have a mental illness or know someone who has. My perspective changed drastically when, a few years ago, I was diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

I had come back from the Army and the transition was not going well. One of my earliest memories of psychosis is when I thought I could use my “special powers” for good. I went into the city to help the police. I thought my random intuition could possibly help me make money. Regular citizens could call the police with tips about crime. It was possible to get $1000 for a tip to the police if they used it. Since I had special powers, and my savings account was diminishing, I thought this would be a great way to make money.

I called the crime line several times. I had called them so many times that the local police wondered what was going on and why a random guy had so many tips. When the police called our home, my parents told them I had a mental health diagnosis and was refusing treatment.  Meanwhile, I was wondering why all my tips were not being taken seriously. I thought for sure I could make money by helping the police to solve crimes.

Allow me to go back to the beginning. Shortly after joining the Army, I began to experience some bizarre behaviors, and I was acting out in many ways. It was only a matter of time until my fellow soldiers and sergeants decided to punish me hoping I would conform to the military lifestyle. Their harassment was an attempt to break me, and they succeeded because for the first time in my life, I felt broken. While I had once loved the idea of serving in the military and possibly making it a career, I now saw the military in a negative light.

I needed help. I need something to pull me out of this dungeon that these strange symptoms were bringing into my life. I was laying on my bed, asking for God to pick me up and bring me back home to my parents where I would feel safe again. While God did not take me out of my situation at that point, He gave me the insight to go to mental health clinic on post.

Doctors at mental health services decided I needed further testing and sent me to a psychiatric hospital. I called my parents from the hospital and my mom answered, stunned and a whole continent away. I was given a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, and later honorably discharged from the Army.

I drove home as the rage and anger I felt derailed my perception of the diagnosis I had received at the hospital. Now my main motivation was to sue the Army for causing my life to be ruined and for all the wrong that had been done to me. I was obsessed with getting even. I was quite sure I was going to be a millionaire after I won the lawsuit. After suing, I was sure I would not have to worry about money for the rest of my life.

I got home and again the people in my life, my parents, did not know what to do with me because I was acting out again. My schizophrenia was consuming me. My parents were scared not only for what I might do to myself but also for their own personal safety. They called the police, who placed me in handcuffs, and later took me in for a formal mental health evaluation. I was furious with my parents, but, at the same time, I was tired of fighting the chaos in my mind because I would not accept my mental illness. I am so thankful that even with all this rage and all the anger, I was not violent with the police. They were professional and knew how to deal with someone with a mental illness. I gave up fighting my illness. However, I was infuriated with my parents because the hospital stay would take me away from the lawsuit I was working on.

In the hospital, my dad would visit. I was so mad at him I sat in silence. My parents’ selfless love was the only thing I had. Even though I was treating them like crap, they never gave up on me. After my hospital stay, I was sent to a respite house where the medication finally took hold, and I realized the voices, delusions and excessive racing thoughts were classic signs of schizophrenia. I was alone in the homeless respite, but I finally began to understand my diagnosis. My anger and rage were lifted when my medication began to fight the unwanted symptoms of schizophrenia. The lawsuit was dropped. I realized that my focus had to be on getting better. Eventually, I was able to forgive my fellow soldiers for their part in the harassment I had experienced while in the Army, and I now look back and admire those who make the decision to serve their country. Had I not joined the Army, I would not have the benefits I have which have provided excellent care for my physical, as well as my mental health. I know that the prayer I prayed while lying in my bunk in the desert was answered.

I value my journey of recovery which includes my experiences along the way. The events that have led me to this point have served to build me up, not break me down. Yes, there was a point of brokenness, but it led to a change in my perspective that made me feel brand new. Without schizophrenia, I may have been a failed writer or someone without a unique story. With my mental health diagnosis, I have a new perspective about mental illness, and I have become an advocate for those who have similar diagnoses. I know that mental illness touches every family, and I am determined to allow my new perspective to help me change how society views mental illness.

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Originally published: September 30, 2020
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