Stories of Recovery

Garry's Story


This is Garry's story of recovery from Schizophrenia.
Written for Internet Mental Health, August 1996

When I first became ill is hard to say. There was no dramatic change in personality or behaviour. I was always quite shy and withdrawn throughout my teen years and early adulthood. When I turned 27, I moved from western Ontario to central British Columbia. The B.C. economy was booming and it was easy to find a job as a draftsman with a large utility company and I was doing quite well. For the first year I travelled extensively throughout the central interior, only home on weekends. I made a few friends, and even found a girl to fall in love with. As the relationship grew she moved in with me and my roommate. I was still travelling a lot and only home on weekends. I had been a casual marijuana smoker and, with my girlfriend and my roommate, experimented with cocaine. I gradually became depressed and slept a lot when I was home, and withdrew even more. I became untrusting of people and even thought my girlfriend and roommate were having an affair behind my back, which turned out to be true. When I found this out to be true, the house broke up and we went our separate ways. I thought I had a good reason to be depressed and paranoid, however the depression lasted too long and in time I couldn't even work. After about 1 year of breaking up with my girlfriend I started to seek medical help, but the availability of services was limited and I couldn't express my thoughts and feelings well enough to be understood. I was always having thoughts about my girlfriend and roommate and how I caught them. I was very depressed and unable to sleep. Finally my parents came and "rescued" me. I went on sick leave from work and moved in with them. In the ensuing 6 months I attended an outpatient program at the local hospital and gradually started to feel better. With the introduction of Stelazine (trifluoperazine) (20mg/day) I quit ruminating about past events, gained trust in people and lost the depression.

When I recovered enough, I was discharged from day care and moved back up north with a reduction in medication and not knowing what the diagnosis was. After being home for a while and receiving counselling at the local hospital, I learned my diagnosis was schizophrenia and thought I was an "axe murderer type guy". Not wanting to be schizophrenic I quit the medication; after all if you don't take the medication, you don't have the disease. This only lasted about 6 months, then I was hospitalized and treated for depression. The treatment for depression was 1/2 way working, however my thoughts were very jumbled and then I didn't trust anyone, not even my therapists. My thoughts were like listening to 10 different radio stations that weren't quite on the station.

Eventually I was prescribed Navane (thiothixene) (2.5 mg/day). I filled the prescription and one day a few weeks later when I was trying to solve a tough problem at work, I took one of the pills. The results were very dramatic. Within 45 minutes of taking the stuff my thoughts cleared up as if by magic. I wanted more of the stuff but I didn't know how much was a therapeutic dose and my physician wouldn't prescribe a higher dose. The local psychiatrist didn't believe the schizophrenia diagnosis. Over the next 3 years I was running on about 1/2 speed and hospitalized on average every 9 months.

Eventually the economy became bad and I was laid off. I moved in with my parents and began to see a local psychiatrist. The diagnosis was schizophrenia and I was prescribed Navane (20 mg/day) and felt as though the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I hadn't had anything to do with street drugs for about 4 years now and was warned that involvement with them or alcohol would cause a worsening of the symptoms.

I attended Okanagan College and earned my grade 12 over again and first year university. Eventually I met a wonderful woman, fell in love got married and moved to Vancouver. I found work as a draftsman and attended night school. The medication was eventually changed to Risperidal (risperidone) and I felt even better. It had been 12 years from the onset of the illness till then. I spent 6 years living in hell without proper diagnosis and now I am fully recovered. I have earned an honours Diploma of Technology and am about to start a wonderful career.

It is now 1996 and without the support of my loving wife, psychiatrist and medication I would not be where I am today.

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