Two weeks ago I helped create a guy’s resume and he was given a position as a supervisor and his salary doubled.
I tell this story because living only for yourself and your needs and desires is not the way to go.
I’m not a celebrity with schizophrenia like another person might be billed. I’m just a recovered person who wants to see justice served for the still-significant minority of people with this illness who have a greater hard time in life.
My calling is to champion that getting the right treatment right away results in a better outcome.
For decades now, individuals have been turned away at the hospital doors and sent back out into the community where they get sicker and sicker every day they go without treatment.
I have the experience of talking with family members whose loved ones are ghosts of their former selves; whose loved ones committed violence or killed because a judge failed to authorize mandatory treatment. Family members hurt and they suffer when their loved ones are denied necessary treatment or their loved ones have anosognosia and so refuse treatment.
The list of tragedies goes on and on. I want to be a spokesperson for schizophrenia like Temple Grandin is for autism. Yet I take no joy in shining a light on superstars that manage herculean feats despite having ongoing symptoms. The reason is because when you get the right treatment right away it’s possible for the symptoms to stop completely.
I’m more interested in giving a voice to people who it seems have no voice in society, either because their level of disability is too severe to be lauded as remarkable, or because they’ve become pawns in the anti-psychiatry war game.
My two self-help books are geared to individuals who are often told they’ll never achieve their pre-illness dreams; that they’ll never amount to much because they have schizophrenia; that they’ll have to live out their days collecting SSI and living in a street-drug-infested housing complex.
The road is often long and winding with many detours when you have schizophrenia and want to get to a better place in life. You shouldn’t have to go it alone with no help from the very people who are tasked to help you.
I’m not a superstar. I just dared early on to dream of having the kind of life I wanted to live. I dared fight to have this better life. It didn’t get better until I turned 35 yet that was when I decided to become a mental health activist.
Those of us with beautiful brains owe a debt to society to uphold the social covenant: to take our medication if we need it to be well; to extend a hand. Like Audrey Hepburn is quoted: you have two hands: one for helping yourself, and one for helping others.
Creating resumes and seeing all kinds of people get jobs when it took them months of searching on their own without success is what motivated me to become a mental health activist. Mind you, only one person over the 7 years I’ve been doing this has called up to thank me for helping her get a job. More people than not obtain jobs and go on their merry way.
So: I was creating resumes that helped people get jobs and I thought: what if I could help individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar and other mental illnesses get jobs, live on their own, and have lives that are filled with joy and satisfaction just like people who don’t have illnesses?
Bingo: I understood my own life was proof that individuals with mental illnesses could overcome hurdles if they had cheerleaders urging them on, not a firing squad shooting down their hopes and dreams.
You’d better believe that more people than not who have mental illnesses can have good lives if they get the right treatment right away. Going to school and getting a degree or working at the job you love: that’s a kind of treatment too.