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4 Rules I Follow as a Veteran in Schizophrenia Recovery

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I just passed my 10-year-anniversary since being diagnosed with schizophrenia. Where has the time gone? Some battles are over after one skirmish, others last a lifetime.

When my diagnosis came, my life was full of paranoia, delusions and I was out of control. I reacted to every overpowering influence with bizarre behavior. The voices kept me isolated, on guard even when I was trying to sleep. I was in control of a world that no one else could see or hear. In truth, I was on a one-way street that would only lead to my demise.

The last 10 years has not been easy. There have been hospital stays, numerous medications changes and major lifestyle changes. All of that has brought me to today where I am in a state of constant recovery. I am fully aware that recovery never ends. As simple as it may sound: I must follow the rules of recovery. Not for the next month or six months, but for the rest of my life. About those rules of recovery…

Rule 1: Stay on your medication. 

You may start to feel better after a month or two, but that does not mean you can go off your medication. I’ve had to realize that I’m not “healed.” The medication is making a difference. Never make a medication change without talking to your doctor.

Rule 2: Find your support system.

I have been fortunate to have great family support, but I understand this is not always the case. There are mental health professionals who can guide you to finding your support system. Church groups, neighbors and your fellow veterans (if you’re also a veteran) are all places where you will find people are on your side and will give you the support you need to continue your recovery. You cannot do this alone; you must ask for help.

Rule 3: Find something you enjoy doing.

This activity will shield you from the troubling thoughts that get into your brain. Some examples are: music, brain games, writing in a journal, exercise, following a sport or a team. Use a computer to virtually visit the places you served while you were active duty. Stay current by watching the news and other informative shows such as the History or National Geographic Channel. 

Rule 4: Stay away from habits that might be harmful to your medication or your health. 

When I first began taking my medication, I thought alcohol would keep the voices away. I was wrong! I had to totally quit. I was also able to quit my three-pack-a-day cigarette habit.

Illness, medication and recovery is a battle. The four weapons that I have mentioned above will give you a better chance of winning the recovery battle. If you’re a veteran you know what fighting a battle means. It is not easy, but ongoing victory is possible. In the 10 years since my first diagnosis, I have fought homelessness, alcoholism, isolation and at times hopelessness, but after 10 years, I know I am here to defeat my illness. I am not defined by my illness. I am Jason Jepson. I have schizophrenia and I am recovering.

This story originally appeared in the Schizophrenia Bulletin.

Photo by Catalin Pop on Unsplash

Originally published: June 17, 2021
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