I'm going to offer eight great recovery secrets here as a prelude to talking about my schizophrenia experience in September: the 25th anniversary of my diagnosis. This is Part One and Part Two will follow.
Over the six years I've worked for HealthCentral, I've offered various Top Ten lists. This list of eight is culled from what I learned living in recovery successfully for 25 years.
1. Mourn the past, and move forward.
I was a disc jockey on the FM radio when I got sick and that was the happiest time of my life. Deciding to join the radio station was the defining moment of my life. I was distraught when I couldn't go back to the way things were before. The lowest point of my recovery was six am on New Year's Day 1988. Washing and scrubbing dishes at the kitchen sink, I looked out the window onto the silent, empty world that would never be mine. Or so I thought.
I was able to move forward when I accepted I would not ever be a coveted magazine editor whose bon mots were the Toast of the City. I realized quickly what I could do: get trained to be an administrative assistant instead.
25 years later I draw upon the memories of these careers to sustain me. My courage to risk becoming a disc jockey reminds me that I can draw upon this strength to take new risks today.
I was able to embrace a different future when I mourned my early life. How can we regret what might have been if it didn't happen? We can only regret an actual event. Yet even then regret serves no purpose.
Each of us needs to embrace the possibility that the future can be better.
2. Take your medication.
This is common sense. Taking your meds can get you to remission. The idea that people with schizophrenia can have "full and robust" lives isn't debatable. Medication makes this possible. In my book, "the sky's the limit" rings true. Yet the goal is different for everyone. Some of us will continue to have residual or breakthrough symptoms. Not all of us will be able to do what others do. That's not the point. The point is that by taking the medication our lives become more comfortable and manageable. The reality is: no one I know who discontinued his or her meds got better. They relapsed and had a much harder time of it.
3. Do the hard things first.
Early on in my recovery, I chose to focus on taking action to advance towards my goal of finding full-time work. I attended a day program for two years and lived in a residence and was trained as a word processor so I could get office work.