The next recovery skill is adaptability. When you have a break, it is sudden and total and you can't reverse what happened. Taking the medication will allow your brain to right itself, yet if you go off the meds, eventually your brain will revert to its dysfunctional tendency. If you don't adapt to this reality, you will do things counter to your recovery.
After I got sick, I wanted to go back and resume the life I had before. I was a disc jockey on the FM radio with a loyal following. Four years later, I returned to the squeaky chair in the on-air studio for one lonely summer. It wasn't the same, and I had to face the music: I couldn't recreate what for me had been the happiest time of my life-my college years when I spun records at WSIA, 88.9 FM.
It was the end of an era, and I had no hopes for the future. I had nothing to look forward to when I came home at night. My college friends-the ones I thought were my friends-had disappeared from the scene. What could I do? I had to do something, so I took adult education classes at the Learning Annex: handwriting analysis, magazine writing, and color analysis.
I treated my recovery like a job when I realized I needed to develop a new skill set. Indeed, the seven recovery skills I'm talking about in this blog series can be considered a skill set.
Adapting to what life handed me was something I needed to do. My choice of career was chosen for me because it seemed I had no control over it. I wanted to live independently, so to be able to do so, I accepted the first job offer I received-at an insurance brokerage. My situation was dramatic: I received only $700 per month in SSD payments and was living in a supported residence when I took my job as a secretary.
I felt I couldn't wait for my dream job to come along-I wanted to be an editorial assistant. Who was I kidding, anyway? The publishing industry, though often seen as glamorous, is competitive. Adapting to life post-SZ involves knowing your limitations and honoring them. I was sensitive and functioned on an emotional level, and would've been cut into pieces.
With a B.A. in English, I couldn't go to work after I graduated because I got sick that fall, so I went to clerical school. It could seem like I had to lower my expectations. Yet any honest job performed to the best of your ability gives you dignity. Some great people are secretaries. My intention in telling you this is that sometimes it's necessary to shift course. It works in the opposite way, too. For a Schizophrenia Digest feature I wrote, I interviewed someone who suggested that after he was diagnosed, he approached life more boldly, whereas before he hesitated.
Adaptability can be a positive thing. Changing your outlook enables you to focus on the things that matter most. One night I was in tears in the therapist's office because I regretted I couldn't have children, and he reminded me, "You nurture others through your writing." So I realized I didn't need to feel upset or ashamed about my life and how it turned out.
When I gave up the illusion hat I could have it all, or do it all, or be what other people wanted me to be, that was a freeing energy. I could be a writer? Sure. The other things didn't matter.
Adapting to the SZ could be as simple as creating a new routine to have structure in your life. Every day I swallow pills, pills, pills-and making peace with this reality was something that didn't come easy. I had to change my perception to understand that doing so keeps me healthy. The whole of recovery lies in perception: how we see things and engage in habits that sustain our well-being.
The next recovery skill I'll talk about is the foundation on which all the others rest: to be self-reliant. As always, I enjoy your comments.
Published On: February 07, 2009