The three graces of recovery are faith, hope and charity. When the night is long, faith is instrumental in guiding us through. Early on, I couldn't see the outcome for my efforts; however, I persisted until the end of the road appeared. Faith is a belief in the impossible that becomes real as we go through our lives. Years ago nobody thought a person could recover, and hopefully this has been disproved. My faith in God is strong and true. I believe he wants only the best for us, and is kind and loving, not a monster. This keeps me going through my trials. I don't profess to understand why it has to be so hard, and so I let it be. When I accepted an award as a NAMI volunteer of the year, I said, "If I can turn my pain into a thing of beauty for other people, I will have done my job."
That's where charity comes into play. I firmly believe there's a reason we go through what we do, and life has something to teach us. I accept what I was given because it allows me to have compassion for other human beings. Right now, I do volunteer work for Baltic Street AEH, Inc., a peer-run mental health services agency. Doing volunteer work is something I recommend if you want to get outside of your troubles and feel better about yourself. I do what I do simply because I believe it is the right thing to do. It is what God asks of me. And trust me, if you're motivated to be altruistic because you'll get something out of it, like a good feeling of self-worth, that's certainly okay.
We must take it on faith that things will get better, even when it seems hopeless. And that's where hope comes into play. When I first started out in recovery in the late 1980s, I had no role models to look up to for support and guidance. No one else had been on the road I was going down, or so it seemed, and I traveled solo. That is why I refused to live in hiding after I graduated from school. I had seen from my own experiences that someone could do well, and I wanted to give others hope.
So by doing good works, we bring hope to ourselves and others. We also smash the stereotypes of people living with schizophrenia. The images in the media leave a lot to be desired because of what happens when someone goes untreated or falls through the cracks. Though I was treated differently in the summer of 1992 when I returned to work after my second hospitalization, I refuse to "lie-and-deny" now. It takes a lot of energy to keep up a false front. Living with a divided self isn't healthy.
Those of us in recovery need to learn all we can about the schizophrenia to help ourselves get better, and to be wise teachers to the general public. Faith comes into play again here. We risk everything by disclosing to others. Yet after time, and when we get to know someone, I feel it's necessary to do so. Even to set someone straight as the occasion arises. Sometimes, the worst stigma comes from within ourselves when we don't believe that recovery is possible.
Every person's definition of what recovery means to him is going to be different from somebody else's. Yet the elements of faith, hope and charity will be constant. I'm convinced that living a compassionate life is is the healthiest way to live. I'm not sure any studies have been done about this; however, it could possibly be true that people who do volunteer work have less stress in their lives, lower blood pressure and healthier hearts. Volunteering your time to a cause gets you to shift the focus outside of what's going on in your life, and onto what you can do for others. To place "service above self" is a noble undertaking that has its own rewards.
When you begin to reach out to others, you will experience hope for yourself and a belief in your own worth. Sometimes, depression could be part of the schizophrenia, and volunteer work will uplift us. Prevention magazine attested in an article years ago to the therapeutic benefits of volunteerism: it activates the release of endorphins, the "feel good" chemicals.
In my life, I know that the more I do, the more I want to do. It's a circle of esteem that rolls along as I journey through the years. The end of my road is here. And that is why I've turned back with a lantern to guide others coming down this way after me.
Published On: February 28, 2008