I like to think that all of us are experiencing a recovery journey. For people with mental illnesses, just beginning this journey can be extremely difficult. For one, starting on a recovery journey often means you have to accept that you have an illness and accept treatment like medications, even severe treatments like ECT and hospitalization.
The other thing that makes having an illness such as schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder is that not only do medications rob us of so many important parts of our lives, our illness also comes with anosognosia, a condition where a person who is ill doesn’t realize they have an illness.
Time and again when I think of this topic, the image of Charlie Sheen, having extreme psychosis, in a manic state, was using drugs and making a fool out of himself with his radio program. I think in cases like this, one of the most important things you can do after something like this occurs, is to forgive yourself for being ill. Recognize that you were having medical problems (except with your brain not your arms or legs) and that beating yourself up isn’t going to change the past or help anything.
All that is great, but not really what I had in mind when I wanted to talk about re-evaluating. The kind of re-evaluating I want to discuss is when you take a long, contemplative look at yourself and really and truly decide what it is in life that gives you joy. Myself, nothing comes close to the pleasure I get from writing. The best thing about is is that you build up a reputation and a career as either a fiction writer or a journalist, and as long as you keep on doing your best work, you will build a fan base and do very well for yourself.
The next sub-topic I wanted to discuss is when we take a hard look at who we are as people. We ask tough questions, like “Do I believe in God/should I attend Church?” “Do I consider myself an activist or advocate for a cause, and do I do anything to give back what the world gives me?”
When I was younger, it was enough to know my days were filled with joy and friendship. Then a few years passed and I found out none of the people I grew up with cared enough about me to help me or even stay in contact with me. For a few years I tried to stay in touch with my former friends but it just became futile.
Still, I had my talent and my passion. Funny thing is, at first I thought it was all about flying, then I started to write a little about flying, then started to write about everything and I found a deep love of writing that has not only replaced my love of flying, it also brings in a few bucks when I sell some books or publish another article.
What I think you, my dear reader, should do, is to try and find something you are passionate about. There are so many things. My sister has a Master’s Degree in Education, but she spends a ton of her free time beading, making necklaces and such out of beds she assembles. It occupies her, it takes away stress, and fills her time. Playing sports can be an excellent passion, not to mention also a big stress reliever. One thing that is interesting about sports is that you never have to stop learning more about whichever sport you choose to play. And also, if you don’t want to be too much of a competitive person, you can participate in sports such as walking or taking long tours on a bicycle. You are the one in charge.
One of the great things about having a fitness routine, is that if you are unemployed, participating in some sports can help prepare you mentally and physically for your next job.
One of the things a lot of people struggle with is that they get a disability pension and are required to report any income. I do feel you have to be completely honest with whoever manages your case at CPP or SSI or whoever is in charge of your case. But it might be a good idea to work a job part-time, allowing your case manager to deduct what you earn, and then when you are more sure and ready, talk about transitioning back to being independent. And with any luck, if you haven’t already, having a good job and being in control of your life, you may find a significant other who you will be able to share your life with.
The last topic for today I want to mention is volunteering. So many times, it can be next to impossible to break into industries you want to try. I had always had a dream of having my own radio show, and when I was able to volunteer on our local community radio station, I ended up having an amazing time. I will never forget that feeling of loading up my briefcase, heading out for the downtown bus while it was still dark, transferring to the train and then joining thousands of students on a walk to the University. It really felt like I had a wonderful purpose.
One of the cool things about volunteering is that often you can get your choice of jobs. For a while, I volunteered as a pastoral care volunteer. I would visit patients who didn’t get out much, take them for walks. Those old men showed me so much kindness, even though really they had so little to give. I have had a few volunteer jobs, but my suggestion to you dear reader is to do that critical thinking about what gives your life meaning, what you want to do most, then contact the volunteer network (or equivalent in your area) and find a job that will help ease you into your new profession.
Have a great day Dear Readers! All the best!