Here’s my story again. !980, age 19 diagnosed. Moved into a group home and remained unmedicated and psychotic for a year. Suffered terribly, felt suicidal. I felt like giving up most days but my dad talked me out of giving up and after all, who are you going to give up to?
But I was19 and I had no friends, no car, no money, no job, no school certainly no girlfriend, no independence, certainly no sanity. Couldn’t see any kind of future and didn’t plan on one. I wasn’t functioning. Some days it took me two hours just to shower and choose what clothes I was going to wear that day.
Paranoid, delusional, scared, out of my mind, weird perceptions. Most days were spent fighting not to go stark raving mad. Probably one of my top ten fears was getting so sick and withdrawn that I would not be aware of anything around me.
At best, before I got sick, I was a shy, naive, withdrawn, silent self-conscious, guy with little self-esteem and little confidence. I did lots of cool stuff before I got sick but I rarely talked to anyone I didn’t know well.
So after a year at the home I had gotten worse, not better. Just a weird, bizarre time for me. So I got kicked out over a misunderstanding and a month later I entered a large locked psychiatric hospital. These guys put me on meds, in fact, a massively high, strong dose of medication that sedated me.
More suffering, no improvement. But my family saved me from giving up and feeling hopeless. But I went through hell. And I was locked up with some dangerous people; homeless, ex-cons, street people. But I survived.
Of course it wasn’t a 100% bad time. I managed to go out on 15 minute walks outside the hospital. There was a discount store across the street and when my parents gave me a couple bucks I would walk across the street and buy these hunks of pure chocolate for two dollars. I was miserable about 90% of the time but just these little things went right occasionally
I was a loner in there but I had some people who I talked to. I had a couple of roommates who liked me. But yeah, it was hell in there for 8 months. I got released into a fancy group home in an upscale city in a really nice two story house. It was clean and I lived with 5 or 6 other people. Just being physically out of that hospital and put in a nice clean safe place made me improve.
I was not suffering as bad and I was rubbing elbows with some rich kids. I’ll cut to the chase. After 9 months at this house, through a series of small steps I became employed I had been attending a vocational program that informally was meant to give people a daytime activity and maybe get people jobs and keep us busy.
At the time I did not feel anything was special about me or anything out of the ordinary about me. I just did what the doctors and counselors and my family told me to do and I went along with the flow. So when the vocational program offered me small jobs I cooperated. They hired me to sit and sell food in the vocational house building at an old cash register. Then they gave me a job taking care of the landscaping outside the building by myself.
These counselors saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. So the mental health agency that ran both this vocational program and my group home had a formal office about twenty minutes away and they hired people from the program o do light janitorial work the to clean their offices. They rotated us clients in and out for a month at a time. The work was easy and they liked me so much that they hired me for two months instead of just one. And they payed me like $40.00 a month.
My next step was they picked me out of 15 people to work at a small business they had ties with. It was being a handyman for their hot tub business. Again, they were supposed to rotate clients every 3 months but the boss liked me so much personally and he liked my work that he kept me on for four years!
I am not writing this post to brag. My main point for this story is that I was just an average mental patient who showed no extra skills or future. But I co-operated with the people who were trying to help me. I took my meds as prescribed. When my parents arranged group therapy I dutifully went.
I kept an open mind and took suggestions from family and doctors. And this is where it got me today. I’m 56 years old. I’m looking back on being almost steadily employed since 1983. I have had my ups and downs.
One “down” was getting addicted to crack in my twenties. I won’t get into that whole story except to say that I lived the addict life for four years. I was the victim of occasional violence, I spent a few thousand dollars on crack in four years, I was miserable and I almost lost everything including my families trust. I sold most of my belongings for crack. I stole a car once, I used and betrayed my friends and they use and betrayed me. I got in crazy, dangerous situations many times. But I ended up getting clean in 1990 and now after a thousand AA meetings I have been clean for 28 years.
But anyways, I’ve worked, I moved out on my own in 1995 and lived independently for about 20 years. I’ve been driving my own cars almost steadily since 1997. I started college years ago but I only have 4 more classes to go for my college degree. I doubt I will use it at this point but I’m doing it for my own self-satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
I had two relapses, one in 1989, and later just two years ago when my mom died. Her death hit me hard and I got suicidal and at the same time I lost my housing, I had to quit school, I had to take two months off from work, I couldn’t drive my car and I ended up in a board & care home.
Well that all happened in the space of two weeks. But I’ve been back at my job for two years, I am living in a nice apartment with a roommate run by a mental health agency but it is as close to independent living as you can get.
I just started a new class, I have a nice car and I handle my own money and I take care of paying bills. My point to this whole story is obvious. I’ve been down so low so many times. When I was 20 years old in the hospital no one would have predicted I would ever work again. I was severely,severely ill. I was just some confused average kid in a mental hospital shuffling alone through the halls of an institution in my hospital robes.
If I had given up I would have missed out on so many fun things I’ve done. During my illness I have traveled, I have had friends, I’ve had money, I’ve been to a million restaurants, a hundred movies a dozen or more rock concerts I’ve had women who liked me. I’ve been camping, I’ve been water-skiing. Hung out with my sisters and their husbands and friends.
My point is that you never know who going to succeed. You can’t just look at your situation now and say, “Well, I will never work again or do anything else with my life.” Because you don’t know. Things change, opportunities come up. They can come out with new, more effective medications any time. Just let people help you and keep an open mind.
I’ve seen too many people in my illness who look hopeless only to lose track of them but years later I see them and they are working or have girlfriends or boyfriends. You just never know. Anyways, I hope you see my message. Life ain’t easy but it sure isn’t impossible to achieve something despite this disease.
I’ve seen so many people here do too many things to think that life is hopeless. I really hope this helps. Don’t give up. In AA they told me, “Don’t quit ten minutes before the miracle happens”. Keep on trying, you may get still get a break in life and someone will give you opportunities to accomplish a little something in life. Good luck,I wish you well.