This is the story of my experience with Shizophrenia and my discovery of a genuine sense of self.
I was once given a poem by a friend. The title was "Wild Geese" by the American poet Mary Oliver. The point my friend was making was that all you need to do in life is just be yourself. Good advice indeed. It was not that particular poem however that came to mean so much to me, but rather one I discovered during a time of growth in my life. It was also a hard time, but that is neither here nor there. It was called "The Journey". That poem has helped me believe in myself more, in my own judgement and choices. The following is the story of my own personal journey.
I had my first breakdown at age 26, after which the psychiatric services put me in touch with some courses. I took the only art one then available, a course in Graphic Design. It was funded for five years and I thought that in that time I would be safe. At the end of the five years I appeared to be doing well and when a job came up in the organisation where I was training I took it. However my five years of safety were over and I immediately began to become ill. This was compounded by the fact that we had some training days on mental health which made me afraid to take my medication.
I attended a second information day. Some of the things which were said struck home. It was a description word for word of my own personal experience. The phrase that tugged at something inside me and made me cry was, "people who don't have, and might never have had, a sense of themselves", The thing I didn't have. I would say I am a sensitive and shy person. I can be very hard on myself, but there is so much about me which is good. My problem is I have always had, and still have, trouble believing it.
It was during this time that I looked up the web on Mary Oliver. I discovered another poem. It was about relying on and trusting oneself. The line that struck a chord with me was, "There was a new voice which you slowly recognised as your own" I suppose I was developing a genuine sense of self. After that I had my second breakdown and was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I was hospitalised and treated.
During my time in recovery I built on this new sense of self. With a little more confidence I have been able to hold down a part-time job and develop my hobbies and interests. I have been stable now for seven years. I will never come off medication again as I have come to terms with needing it, but I have learned to avoid what stresses me and to concentrate on what I am able to do and what I have. I have a loving family, a supportive partner and a very good life. You can imagine my joy the day the consultant told me that I was to be discharged from the psychiatric services into the care of my GP as I had been well for so long.
When I was given the poem I wrote to Mary Oliver asking for a copy of her book for my friend. Recently I have written to her asking for a copy for a lovely person that I have only just come to appreciate. Myself!