Stories of Recovery

Alison's Story

This is Alison's story of recovery from Schizophrenia.
Written for Internet Mental Health, August 1995

My illness became apparent when I was about 19 years old. I was depressed as a teenager but didn't have any really psychotic symptoms until I was in my second year university and then I stopped going to classes and started daydreaming all the time and sleeping all day just waking up for meals. I was living in a fantasy world where I was a super special person and yet I was depressed because I couldn't fulfill this role as a super special person. One of my girlfriends suggested that, since I was missing classes, I go speak to the women's counselor so I spoke to her and told her my symptoms and she told me to go see a psychiatrist at the university. I went to see him and I told him all my symptoms: I felt like people started looking like robots to me, my body seemed to be alien matter to myself, I seemed to be like from outer space somehow. He gave me some pills, some antidepressant pills and some antipsychotic pills but he didn't give me any diagnosis at the time. He just wanted to see how my illness went on.

This lasted about two years and I was quite suicidal for that period of two years because I didn't know what was going on and I was becoming more and more depressed as I could see my career slipping away from myself and living in this world that I had created and not having any idea what I was supposed to do with my life at that time and I was very discouraged because nobody gave me any hope.

I ended up in hospital twice while I was actively suicidal and I finally decided that some of the medications weren't working and I thought I would try another approach so I went to an orthomolecular psychiatrist. He started me on niacin and vitamin C and it's either coincidence or it really worked but for some reason or other I got better within about a month or two and I was no longer depressed. I stayed on the vitamins for about five years and at that time I wasn't taking any medication at all. I either had a wonderful remission or the vitamins were working. I don't know to this day if they work but I still take them.

I graduated in 1988 and then the year following I started noticing my depression coming back slowly but surely as I couldn't find a job and I was hanging around my apartment all day. I did find a job and started working at it part-time but then I started hearing screaming and becoming very agitated for no apparent reason while I was getting ready for work to the point where I couldn't go to work any longer. I had to leave my job at that point and I went back to a psychiatrist and he started me on Prozac and that helped me a little bit but it didn't help the psychosis part until I ended up in the hospital another time after I was in a day program, I sort of became catatonic and they started me on haldol. I was on haldol for several months but I had several bad side-effects from that so I started on loxapine after that and that seemed to work but I was still a little bit suicidal and not really depressed at being suicidal but it was more of an elated feeling where I wanted to become an angel or something very special again, so the doctor said, "Are you depressed?" and I said, "Not really but I still want to die and I wish God would let me die by some natural cause."

I went to another day program and that helped me quite a bit. I was in that for four months and they taught me how to live on a budget and banking techniques and social assertiveness techniques and I found that very helpful because that gave me a reason to get up in the morning, even though I couldn't work I could go to this day program. I was in the hospital a few more times because I was suicidal again, but then one of my doctors left and I had to find another doctor, so I found my present doctor and continued taking the loxapine but then tried risperidone for a few months. That seemed to work but I seemed to be a bit flat on that so I went back on the loxapine and vitamins and I feel fairly good today. I'm not ready for looking for a job but I may start looking for volunteer work. At least I have the hope element in my life. I know that all my suffering was for a reason and I have tremendous hope for the future. In the limiting condition that I have I still feel very optimistic about things and I found out through one of my doctors about financial aid, or GAIN, and that made a tremendous difference because I was not able to work at the time and having the money coming in allowed me to keep my apartment and I found that very helpful. I have since moved home with my parents because I became too lonely but I look forward to moving out again when I feel a lot better.

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