For Mental Illness Awareness Week 2013:
I'm pleased to feature the recovery story of a woman I met at the film premiere for a Janssen schizophrenia documentary three years ago.
Rebecca Lyn Phillips is a kind and generous person and wouldn't be defeated in her quest to have a better life. Her courageous winning spirit should be an inspiration to us all.
The story below is told in her own words:
I had always enjoyed my life. I grew up in a wonderful home with two great parents. My father was a Communications professor and my mom stayed at home with me and also had a medical transcription business. My childhood consisted of school and school friends and also moving quite a lot. Finally, in 1986 we moved to Topeka, Kansas and I attended sixth through twelfth grade at a private school.
At age fifteen I signed a book contract with Thomas Nelson Publishers out of Nashville, TN. During high school I worked on my book, my school work, I had a baby-sitting business, and I was involved in drama and orchestra as well as other activities. I was busy and I started getting depressed.
In high school, I told my mom and dad I needed help. They took me to a psychiatric hospital in Kansas City. I opened up to the people there about my anger towards myself because I couldn't be perfect. I wanted to do everything right and I felt like a failure. During high school I was hospitalized two times. My classmates loved me and didn't judge me. However, I felt embarrassed and didn't want to talk about my hospitalizations.
In 1993 I graduated from high school. A year later my book was published. I spoke at a seminar and did book signings. I also attended college but during my first semester I had a nervous breakdown. I had to withdraw from school and was hospitalized again. It was the first of about twelve hospitalizations.
I worked off and on but never finished another book with the publishing company. I felt like a failure. I overdosed on my pills one night and my mom had to drive me to Kansas City again to be hospitalized. I thought I could do better. I wanted to get help.
Throughout my twenties and early thirties, my mom and sister were always there for me. My sister is seven years younger and she cared and was very concerned. Their support has given me hope.
In 2006, I had a psychotic break. I flushed all my medication down the toilet and I lost a lot of weight. I was terrified that someone was out to murder me and I called lots of people about my fears. The police came to my apartment and things got so bad my sister drove from Wichita to Topeka to take me to the hospital. They had heard about a different hospital that was a teaching hospital and it had gotten rave reviews.
I didn't want to go. My sister, Laura, sat in front of my bathroom door until I made up my mind. She said if I didn't go with her and my mom they would have to call the police. I knew I should go. I got my clothes together and got in the car.
At the hospital I started eating again. It was so awesome. I had been hungry and not eating or taking care of myself. My mom said later she had been convinced I was dying. At the hospital the doctor came in and asked me if I would be interested in a bimonthly injection. That was it, no second or third or fourth medication--just one medication.
I was relieved to say the least and thrilled to try it. I have been taking Risperdal Consta since February of 2007. Never once have I missed a time to get my shot.
In 2009, Janssen Pharmaceuticals called me to ask if a film crew could come to my apartment to film me for a short series about people who were doing well in their recovery. The five minute film was distributed to the pharmaceutical representatives and I loved being filmed with my mom and the crew for a day. A director came from NY and it was a day of true joy.
Also, in 2009, I was asked to write a community blog for my city's newspaper, The Topeka Capital-Journal. The idea was mine to write about individuals who make a difference in the community I live in. Now I advocate for mental health funding a lot through my blog and I also write letters to the editor.
In 2011, Janssen contacted me again to ask if they could come from NY to film me and my mom for a national documentary. I said yes and a director and film crew came from NY and filmed us for a day. It was an amazing experience and sharing my story of struggle and recovery was truly uplifting. My mom and I grew closer through the event.
After the documentary was produced, my mom and I flew to Washington D.C. for the national premiere of the film with the other individuals featured in the documentary. I met some wonderful people and felt like I finally was accomplishing something major after I had had so many years of feeling like I was a failure. After D.C. were screenings in Sacramento, Chicago, and Manhattan, NY. I learned so much from the others featured in the film about not giving up and delighting in the journey.
Now my mom and I are talking once more. We attend a family support group at the mental health center where I attend groups. The people at the center have been instrumental in my own understanding of schizophrenia and how I see myself in the world.
My mom, dad, and sister attended a workshop through the group and my dad and I talk a lot more now and are less paranoid about our relationship and communication. My sister looks out for me and she helps me with reality checks and encouraging me. My mom helps me with daily living tasks and reminds me to take care of myself.
Through my faith, medication, counseling, support groups, my writing, and my family, I have found a new voice and a new life. I don't fear my disorder anymore. In fact, I embrace it and welcome each new day.
I know there is a plan for me and I don't know what the future holds but I am the director of what happens to me and I know I don't have to endure abuse anymore due to my disorder.
I can overcome and I can say "yes" to recovery.
No matter what happens, I will not only survive, I will thrive and I celebrate that discovery every day. I hope those whose lives I touch will feel the same way.
Rebecca Lyn Phillips
Published On: October 06, 2013