Be who you are and say what you feel,
because those who mind don’t matter
and those who matter don’t mind.
– Dr. Seuss
I remember being different as a kid; growing up I never fit anywhere. Even at a young age I heard voices and my emotions were all over the place. The voices were strong, my world never seemed quiet. It wasn’t long before my world became very chaotic. At age 10, I started to drink cold medicine, such as Nyquil, to calm the raging thoughts and the loud voices. Nothing seemed to work. By age 19, I attempted my first suicide and landed in my first outpatient treatment facility. I was diagnosed with depression and sent on my way.
I still struggled with voices and began seeing things and people that others could not see. This began to scare and overwhelm me. It was difficult to work, though I continued to try to hold down good jobs. At age 21, I began to binge drink and I followed the voices to wherever they led, even on sexual and drinking escapades that took me places I didn’t want to go and kept me longer than I wanted to stay. On October 29, 2000, at age 23, I tried to take my life again by a pill overdose. I ended up moving back home and living with my mom in a nursing home (she was disabled at the time, and has since passed away).
This is where I had my first spiritual awakening and came to my faith in Christ. This spiritual awakening was not enough to remove the voices, the conspiracies I believed, and the things that I saw. I ended up in a place called Mercy Ministries; it was a home for girls to help them get their life back in order. I was there for six months. Believing I was healed, I left Mercy and began my life, still living constantly with my symptoms. My thinking became more unclear; I thought my family and others were out to get me. I lived with a constant sense of being followed. I finally broke and started to drink again. This time it caused me to lose my job and I ended up in a rehab for substance abuse in Traverse City, MI.
I was in rehab for 28 days where I had another powerful spiritual awakening, and by the grace of God I was able to quit drinking and have remained sober for over two years. Unfortunately this did not clear my head of the chaos that was going on in my life. I became extremely depressed and continued to believe that I was being followed all the time. I didn’t feel I could reach out to anyone because I didn’t trust anyone. Then one evening “someone” approached me and told me of a conspiracy that involved my mom’s death, and even though I knew how she died, I believed the conspiracy and my reality became even more altered. I locked myself in my room, and stopped eating, showering and going to work. I just sat in my room and cried as the voices told me I needed to die.
I finally emerged from my room and drove as fast I could to see my counselor from the rehab I went to months before. I opened up to my counselor and told her of the “person” that approached me and what the voices were telling me. She explained about hearing voices and hallucinations and wondered if I was dealing with a mental illness. She was the one that made it feel safe enough to go to the hospital. It was at the hospital that I learned I had Paranoid Schizophrenia. The hospital ended up referring me to Community Mental Health, where, with the support of my doctor and support groups, I have been able to accept my diagnosis.
I am on medication and without this medication my world would be in chaos. Though not all my symptoms have gone away, and there is the chance that they all won’t, I am learning to live a sober life with my illness. I am slowly recovering, but I am recovering. I feel more hopeful than I have and am slowly realizing that I have gifts and talents I can offer to this life. I have come to believe that my mental illness, though I have limitations, isn’t something to hold me back, but rather the very thing that will propel me forward.