This blog entry is dedicated to my peers who got on the plane. Or drove up or took a train. Twenty percent of the attendees at the NAMI 2007 Convention in San Diego were people diagnosed with a mental illness: those of us on the front lines who deal with ravaging symptoms every day, and get up and face the world, and embrace a better tomorrow.
If you got on the plane, or drove, or took a train to the conference, I salute your courage! In the coming blog entries I’ll talk in detail about specific knowledge I gained that will benefit readers of my blog. Starting here, I’d like to print the content of my poster session.
That’s where I stood in front of a poster board and talked up my agenda: A Successful Recovery From Schizophrenia. I tacked up the narrative top-to-bottom, and on the left and right of that, I taped photos to illustrate my key points. To show how family support is crucial, I posted a photo of my mother and father and me; to illuminate a healthy lifestyle, I used a picture of my Pumas and 5 lb. weights.
Here now I’ll transcribe the content:
A SUCCESSFUL RECOVERY FROM SCHIZOPHRENIA
Hosted by Christina Bruni, M.L.S.
15 years hospital-free
· 3 million people in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.
· According to all five long-term studies (exceeding 20 years’ duration): approximately 60% of those diagnosed achieve an outcome of full recovery or significant improvement. Among the 40% who do less well, good improvement is possible.
· Courtenay Harding, Ph.D. tracked patients released from a Vermont state hospital in the 1950s. By the 1980s, 62% to 68% were significantly improved or completely recovered. 45% no longer had signs or symptoms of any mental illness.
· In a Sustained Employment Study conducted by Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation (2001-2004), psychiatric diagnosis was not associated with participants’ ability to sustain employment during the two years prior to entering the study. 80% of all participants had at least one psychiatric hospitalization. 93% of all participants were taking psychotropic medications at the time of entering the study.
STAY OUT OF THE HOSPITAL:
· Take your medication as prescribed.
· See your psychiatrist regularly and talk about what’s going on.
· Decide to make your recovery the #1 focus of your life.
· Develop an action plan to handle increased stress.
· Be honest with your doctor about any new and unusual symptoms.
· Talk to a therapist if necessary.
INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF A SUCCESSFUL RECOVERY:
· Work at a job you love or do volunteer work.
· Attend a peer support group.
· Engage in daily physical activity.
· Accept that you have a condition you’ll need to manage for the rest of your life.
· Eat mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and chicken, turkey and fish.
· Socialize with friends and family.
REDUCE THE SELF-STIGMA:
· Boost your self-esteem by doing the things you love. Live your passion!
· Allow the internal critic to do its thing, and then let go of the negative thoughts.
· Do one thing each day to move you closer to your goals.
· Focus on doing what it takes to stay healthy. (Self-advocacy)
· Be a role model/advocate for others.
· Seek out “recovery mentors” for yourself.
· Schizophrenia is one of the 21st century’s major health liabilities.
· However, recovery is possible! People have done it:
ü Pamela Spiro Wagner, co-author, Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia (St. Martin’s Press, 2005)
Blogs at http://www.schizophrenia.com/pam
ü Ken Steele, co-author, The Day the Voices Stopped (Basic Books, 2001)
ü Lori Schiller, author, The Quiet Room (Warner Books, 1996)
ü Christina Bruni, memoirist, Left of the Dial, to be published spring 2008.
Blogs at www.schizophreniaconnection.com
· Staying on medication improves your chance of a productive life.
As you can see if you’re a loyal reader of my expert blog, I stressed a lot of the things I’ve written about here. In all I do, I want to get out the message that recovery is a noble goal, and one that can be reached if you devote the effort to it. My next blog entry will be an overview of the convention, and after that, I’ll post blog entries about specific topics, such as asset ownership for people with disabilities, and aging and schizophrenia through the lifespan.
If you ever get the chance to go to a NAMI convention (next year’s is in Orlando, Florida), I urge you to attend. You’ll get useful information, and also be able to network with people from across the U.S. and other countries. My goal when I retire is to create a scholarship for NAMI-Staten Island to send two mental health recipients each year to the convention.
Right now, scholarships do exist, and I received one last year that covered the costs of my registration fee, hotel and train. Call their help line at (800) 950-6264 to find out how you can apply.
More than any benefit, meeting other people who’ve been there is the number one opportunity you’ll have at a NAMI conference. A peer support group is run for those of us who want to talk about what’s going on in our lives. And a psychiatrist is on call in case someone forgets to bring her meds or has an anxious time of it.
Join me in my next blog entry for a postcard from San Diego!
Published On: June 26, 2007