I remember hearing that word for the first time, schizophrenia. We were sitting in Dr. Rheddi's office in Opelika, Alabama. She was this miniscule little Indian woman with a fiery determination. We had tried everything. Lithium. Haldol. Seroquel. Countless doctors. I still wasn't doing well and was having extreme paranoia and delusions.
"You have schizophrenia and I am going to start you on a new medication," she said.
The new medication was Zyprexa and we saw immediate results as long as I would stay sober.
"This is your chance at a new life," I can remember my father saying.
I remember not believing him. I never took much stock in medications. There was just too much trial and error. He was right. My most immediate result of the meds was the extreme paranoia went away. I no longer felt I was being watched or followed so much. The imagined camera in the corner of my bedroom ceiling also dissapeared.
The Risperdal that I take now isn't perfect. I still have certain symptoms like the occasional bout with paranoia and the thinking that everyone is out to get me or is watching me. Driving is very hard for me and trips out of my driveway can bring on lots of anxiety. But, all in all, I am stable. I can actually take joy in my life and I will often smile for no apparent reason I am so happy. I am actually smiling now as I write this. I don't think I smiled for years under the iron grip of that scourge schizophrenia.
It is pretty commonplace to hear people disparage mental illness medications. "You're just buying into the pharmaceutical money pit," I heard one say. I've often had people send me emails or blog comments with spiritual or herbal remedies for mental illness. That always makes me smile. I do wish it could be so simple, but I believe schizophrenia is a malfunction of the chemistry of the brain and no amount of ginkgo or herbal tea is going to remedy that. You wouldn't give a diabetic some oregano and tell he or she that they are cured. The same goes for those of us afflicted with this disease, and I do believe it is a disease.