Living With Schizophrenia Successfully And Thriving

Schizophrenia doesn't have to hold you back from having the life you want. There is hope and help. Read my story about how it happened, and how I have not only survived but thrived. You can too!

I moved to Dallas in 1991 with my son because my soon to be ex-husband moved there and we needed to live closer if we were to raise our son together. Living in Dallas required many adjustments from me because I grew up in a tiny town in Wisconsin, which is unincorporated even to this day.

After settling in, I got a job in a gift store and was quickly promoted to a management role. Feeling good about myself, I decided I should give college a try. In 1992, I started college at Brookhaven College. I studied hard and began getting very good grades right away. It really started to look like college would be fairly easy for me.

Because Brookhaven was only a 2-year college at the time, in 1994
I transferred to University of Texas at Dallas to complete my degree. Entering my junior year as a psychology major, as part of the requirements for a degree, I had to take part in many psychological experiments.

I attended classes for about a year before my personal life was in ruin. I found myself going through my second divorce, trying to maintain my grades, filing and doing my own divorce, and also raising my son.

For whatever reason, be it total genetics or a combination of genetics and environment, I became very ill with Schizophrenia. The illness began with a deep depression and progressed into disorganized thinking and then into full-blown hallucinations and delusions. I must tell you that my life was endangered many times and my crazy behavior could have caused a fatal accident.

Because I was delusional, I didn't receive medication right away or any kind of treatment at all. It was well over a year before I started any kind of medications or involvement with a psychiatrist.

During this time I fled the Dallas area, out of the fears I was harboring, and came back to Wisconsin to live with my parents. After my family realized I was ill and tried to get me medical help, they found out that legally they couldn't because I wasn't a danger to myself at any given time. I did some work at a factory but I deteriorated rapidly, even further, and my family did what they could.

Finally I was brought to the psychiatric ward by the police and was forced to take medication. My journey for recovery took a long time. I was in and out of the psychiatric ward while the psychiatrist experimented with different drugs trying to help me.

Then my son had to go live with his father. This was a serious blow to my recovery. Over time, I learned to deal with that.

Next, I moved into an apartment complex for the chronic mentally ill and kept seeing a psychiatrist almost monthly. I met some nice people where I lived and learned to live a very sedentary life.

Over time I developed "learned helplessness", due to lack of accomplishments, and this was a very big obstacle for me to overcome.

I was appointed a social worker and she came by my apartment weekly. She was great and seemed to see something special in me. She felt I had what it took to be more productive.

Now this may have been her job, to make me feel like recovery was possible, but I truly believed she believed it was possible for me. She worked with me for about three years and her advice and friendly smile kept me on my journey to recovery.

While living in the apartment, I also met this man. Over a five-year period of time, we became close friends and formed a strong bond. When I moved in with him, back in 2003, I removed myself from the social worker routine and started relying more on myself.

The love that I received from my new partner in life helped me to move forward in ways I never thought possible. I felt almost normal because we were living a pretty normal life and I actually had a mate to share my life with. He also has schizophrenia and together we have been there for each other during the difficult times.

In 2004, I began working with Department of Workforce Development. My caseworker helped me apply for a job working as an Internal Revenue Service Representative, on a contract basis, which I got. I was responsible for ordering publications and forms for taxpayers over the phone and inputting orders into the computer. I worked this job for two years, bouncing back and forth with difficult times with my illness. My employment contract with the IRS ended in February.

At that time, I was once again going through some life changes. These were due to problems with my companion. He was having problems with his mental health and I moved out of his house. With some new medication and his life back on the right track again, we worked things out and I moved back after two months of separation. We are together and very much in love to this day.

The "learned helplessness" I had developed had almost disappeared after I was successful with my employment with the IRS contract. I decided I needed to finish my degree and would stop at nothing to do this. Fighting hard most of my life, I was now trying to maintain my mental health and had to take steps forward to finish my degree.

As I sit here typing this, I can honestly say it's my whole entire being, my core self, that wants to complete my degree. I have been on a long journey and I am optimistic that this journey will amount to something very positive by staying on medication and keeping up with my psychiatrist appointments.

I see myself not as a disabled person, but a person who is much more. I am a woman first of all, a mother, a companion, a daughter, a sister and most of all I am now a student again.

Currently I am enrolled at UW Superior distance learning. I am building my confidence with good grades. I'm doing this to prove to myself, once again, I can maintain good grades whether I am in the classroom or not. From here, my plan is to get a masters degree and become a therapist.

I want to complete my degree and start a therapy model that will help others with mental illness strive and have happy productive lives. I want to study hard in college and spend time going over ideas that will help when it comes time for me to bring in a client to my office and start them on a journey.

I want to help many people on this journey. I may spend time in public speaking to help others achieve meaningful things in their lives despite being mentally ill.

Many times, people with mental illness get a label. They deem themselves to be worthless and actually become that label. Then they live their entire lives by that label, becoming far less then they could be.

Mental illness doesn't have to be the end of the road for any kind of meaning to anyone suffering. I want to keep moving forward, learning more and more everyday, and help others be more and more every day.

Due to the availability of new medication, the psychological community needs to come up with new models to apply to the individuals that are doing better then they ever have thus far in history. I have noticed flaws in the treatment of the mentally ill. I want to create a model of treatment based on my theoretical ideas.

This model will include several new ways of treating mentally ill people from the time they first enter a psychiatric ward all the way up to the fullest recovery possible for each individual.

This model would also continue on with maintained mental health for these people. This new model will be a total new approach for the psychological community and hopefully to society as well.

I have a huge goal here and my model will grow as I learn more. My hopes are it will not only be applied in my therapeutic involvement but be used by all mental health professionals. I've found that I have many good personality traits that are very beneficial to the work I want to do in life. I am very caring and I don't stop even when others give up on people. So far I have helped two people that were homeless. Right now the first one I helped is working a job and is going to be moving from a shelter to an apartment soon.

The other person is currently living with me and she is going to be moving into an apartment by the end of the month.

I feel I go way beyond what the average person would do for people. I'm not bragging about this and I feel really humble toward everyone and don't try to put myself above others. Just because someone is not functioning at their best doesn't, by any means, make anyone helping them or anyone in society in general better then that person.

I am a leader and have lead people to make good choices for themselves. I believe I can make a person feel like I'm their advocate. As they are working toward their goals, they know I'll be there to guide them along the way. Right now, I am also helping my son with his start into college. By using my experience with college, I give him suggestions and ideas to help him makes the best choices for his college years.

What I am trying to say is that life does not stop when something bad happens in our lives. We can throw in the towel for a while and then we should get back up again. Don't let anything stop you from achieving your full potential. Each and every one of us can be anything we set our minds to.

We only get one life and use it wisely to learn and love. Don't let fear hold you down either. Live your life to the fullest. I know I certainly will try to.

Thanks for reading my story.

Written in 2007 by Dianne Nelson
I just received some grades for this semester. I have a 89% and a 98% on my first few tests. Doing really well.

Update, May 1, 2008 : Dianne has recently published her first book, Unveiling Schizophrenia, which is based on her own experience.