CB: So that's how the Consumer Speakers' Bureau was born?
MS: Yes. I've done that for many years, and I'm still doing that-for 23 years.
CB: You've been in recovery your whole life. I wonder what you can tell those of us coming up about living with a mental illness in our later years.
MS: Well, I was out of the hospital for 21 years and then in the hospital two weeks to get a medication adjustment. I had to go off Lithium; it damaged my kidneys so now I'm on Tegretol. I'm trying to basically figure out what my needs are going to be. From what I know, the medication needs change, I don't know how. There aren't enough geriatric psychiatrists. There's a shortage of psychiatrists and when you subtract the ones that are good from those that are marginally good, the numbers get smaller. I'm not sure what I'd need. I know I'd need to be in a building where I can walk in without climbing steps, one that would have an elevator. Depression might be a problem-to get out each day, whether I wanted to or not. Not to isolate, that has to be overcome. The illness may change, and the dose could be different for senior citizens than the general population. So I worry about getting a doctor that knows about the differences in medications. In terms of housing, right now I'm in a good neighborhood but there are limitations on how much OMH is willing to pay for the subsidy, and I may eventually have to move into a cheaper apartment. And the neighborhood may not be as good, I could get mugged.
CB: I'm a librarian, and I was particularly touched to hear you're the proud owner of a library card. That card means so much to you. Can you comment on this?
MS: For quite a number of years I didn't get a library card because I find it hard to concentrate and remember. It was a side effect of the past and current meds. I can't remember too much of what I read. I can remember broad ideas but not details. I used to go into the library to see what they had but I would never take out a book. There is a library on Union Street and Clinton, and it's one block away from my apartment. I wanted to take out videos, and so I finally got the ID together to get a library card. This past week I was back at the branch and wanted to check my e-mails, so with the help of the librarian she set me up with a PIN number so I could sign on electronically for the computer. I'm very happy now.
CB: Give us some parting words of encouragement and inspiration for our readers living with schizoaffective or schizophrenia.
MS: We're now in the second generation of psychiatric medicines, and in the next couple of years I hope there will be blood tests to pinpoint the treatment to give you. And with genetics-they will develop a third generation of drugs better than the second. I've heard it-I'd like to see it happen.