Self-Reliant: Recovery Skill #4

  • The next recovery skill is to be self-reliant, the foundation on which all the others rest. This involves being able to take care of yourself, and if you're a caregiver, knowing your loved one will be able to take care of himself or be cared for after you're gone. The term ADL skills-"activities of daily living"-applies here, and for good reason. To be able to take showers, cook dinner, buy groceries, navigate public transportation are all important skills. Being able to do these things boosts your self-esteem and gives you confidence.

    When I was a teenager, I rarely took showers and I wore the same pair of hole-y jeans every day, even at Christmas. Years later when I got sick, it became a goal to work on these habits and keep up my appearance. I moved into a halfway house where people with MIs could develop life skills for independent living. We shared housekeeping and meal preparation duties, went on monthly trips to places like museums, a roller skating rink and the Mall, and developed a treatment plan with our counselors.

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    The greatest liability in one's recovery is the sense of learned helplessness that we could adopt upon hearing the diagnosis. This could be more disabling than the SZ itself. How others could treat us in society also has an effect. We could get the idea that we are so damaged by what happened to us that there is no hope. I'm living proof-as is everyone who is a community member at the Connection-that there is hope.

    Supported living-the highest level of a residence-can be an option that gives you dignity as well as a roof over your head. The effect of having a place to call your own can't be underestimated. Sometimes having staff for support could make all the difference in your being able to live alone. An agency might take a third of your income for rent. In a future blog entry, I'd like to talk about how you can research and find a good living arrangement.

    Becoming self-reliant can be aided by participation in a short-term day program after you're released from the hospital. I spent close to two years in a short-term and then longer day program. There was a role play group where you acted out scenes, such as sending back an undercooked steak in a restaurant, or interviewing for a job. It isn't easy for some of us to assert ourselves yet learning to do so is the most important pillar of recovery. You could get experience by doing one new thing each week in an unfamiliar situation.

    If you are a parent of someone with SZ who lives at home, I suggest you engage them in grocery shopping and housecleaning and doing laundry. As your son or daughter progresses, plan a vacation. Understand that a side effect of the medication could be drowsiness that causes someone to want to take afternoon naps, or a blunt affect. I know someone who developed a frozen stare because of the atypical she was taking. When her psychiatrist switched her to a newer version of the drug, her face lit up again.

    Also, there's often a co-occurring depression. Managing your moods is part of the recovery process because SZ has a mood component. In New York City, there's a Mood Disorders Support Group that allows people with SZ to join, so I suggest looking for this kind of outlet in your own city or town. I used to have seasonal affective disorder because I was on a low dose of Stelazine, and when Dr. Altman raised it, I was no longer bawled up in tears every night during the winter. I'm amazed I thought I had to live with this-it went on for too long, at least 10 years. So finding an effective drug routine could enable you to function better.

  • Becoming self-reliant is partly a matter of "getting all your ducks in order" in your recovery.

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    To feel in control liberates us from a sense of hopelessness.

    As always, I'd love to hear your comments on this or any other blog entry. The next recovery skill I'll talk about is being invested, and then patience, and I'll close out this series with persistence.

Published On: February 15, 2009