In January, I continue my "100 Individuals with Schizophrenia" interview series. Janet Kuhn is a faithful Connection regular, and she tells us her story now.
CB: First off, could you tell us a little about your psychiatric history?
JK: I've been hospitalized five times. The first time was after I graduated college. I went to Northern Kentucky University, and I was twenty-three years old. I was working the whole time through college at the JC Penney in the Florence Mall. I went to work one day and just saw a picture and for some unknown reason I started screaming. They took me home and my parents called the family doctor. I went to a local hospital in Florence, Kentucky. It was run by the Salvation Army at the time. Two psychiatrists were called in, and that's how I got to be a patient of one of them. This was in 1983.
CB: What were some of your symptoms?
JK: A lot of times I would hear voices. Or I might watch TV and scratch my head, and the character scratched his head, so I experienced "thought broadcasting." I also felt at times like I was being watched. I remember I was visiting my sister in Florida and I picked up a tee shirt I had found and we went back to the place we were staying. I got real nervous and felt people were watching me or coming to get me, circa 1986. I was hospitalized again. The last time I was hospitalized was in 1997.
CB: That's a great accomplishment: to stay out eleven years.
JK: Thank you. I really feel good about that.
CB: Do you still have symptoms?
JK: They've pretty much gone away. I don't hear any voices any more. Now when I have a symptom, it's more moodiness or depression. I look at my nieces and nephews and how far they've come in life, and I don't want to say I get jealous but I get depressed. Moodiness is my number-one thing. I get moody sometimes at a drop of the hat, which I'm not proud of at all.
CB: Okay, so how were you able to stay out of the hospital, after having been in and out five times? What was the turning point?
JK: It was when I got the medication right. I've been on a wide array of drugs. At one point I had a list of all the pills I took. For the last three to five years I've been on Seroquel and that's really helped me a lot. Right now I'm on Seroquel, and I take a pill for my thyroid.
CB: How were you able to cope when the medication wasn't working? What can you tell others who are tempted to go off their meds when they're not effective?
JK: That was one of the hardest things I had to do. I was hardly able to go out of the house because I felt people were on my back or watching me. My family played a part in getting me to see that what I thought was real wasn't real. I would tell others to give the medication time to work, it can take up to two weeks and you can't want to switch every day or every week, you have to give it time. If you've waited, and it still doesn't work, you need to sit down and definitely be up front with your psychiatrist or whoever is treating you, and let them know you're having symptoms. Nowadays there are so many medications out there that you don't have to stay on only one forever.