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Recovery from Schizophrenia

I remember when the paranoia became paralyzing. The delusions became debilitating. I believed that people were conspiring and plotting against me. I was confused and perplexed as to the origins of these abrupt, intrusive, and traumatizing beliefs. 

I became nervous and agitated. I began to withdraw socially. I was unable to function cognitively. My suspicions of persecution lead to emotional turmoil. I experienced a psychiatric breakdown and was hospitalized.

While hospitalized, I endured disabling side effects of various medications. Restrictions. Locked doors. People I didn’t know. 

Eventually, I was temporarily stabilized and was discharged from the hospital with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia. 

I believed that my life had been sabotaged. I was traumatized. I was aware of the widespread stigma that this disease cultivated. I felt alone and hopeless. My functioning was impaired. 

I was in denial. 

Because of the barrier of denial, I refused to cooperate with the counselors and therapists. 

Then I heard about the support group, Schizophrenia Alliance. What intrigued me about SA was that its composition consisted of people who shared the trials of having Schizophrenia. Making the decision to pursue SA transformed my life. I was introduced to people who had achieved great triumphs in their lives, despite this potentially impairing disease. I was accepted as a person with an illness; not a mentally ill person. Hopelessness transitioned into hope. Promise. I finally accepted.

Once I acknowledged my illness, doors opened. Opportunities blossomed. I was ready to initiate the process of treatment. 

Treatment was, at times, a strenuous ordeal. I had to confront the reality of my illness. I had to understand it and learn how to challenge irrational beliefs, (such as paranoia and delusions). It was required of me to endure taxing side effects of different medications. Yet, with acceptance, I had goals and aspirations that were the catalysts for me to persevere. 

Treatment was the link to the freedom and liberation of recovery. I learned and acquired coping skills that gave me the confidence to ongoingly confront and challenge this chronic condition. 

With my experiences of dealing with my illness, along with the compassion and empathy gained through the struggles, I became an SA group leader. I graduated from high school, and later college: (something that was inconceivable earlier). I write and speak about my experiences. 

I also feel that my experiences dealing with a serious mental illness has resulted in me being an emotionally wiser and stronger person. 

There is hope after a diagnosis of a major mental illness. Recovery is possible. When you accept, pursue, and endure treatment, have an adequate support system, and ongoingly work at coping, you can achieve triumphs beyond what you ever imagined. 

Never give up!

Zach Edgerton has served on the Copper Country Mental Health Board since 2015.

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