Sunday, July 29, 2007

I Can Smile Now

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.


DeGanjaFarmer said...

My baby sister is only 21 and struggles with mental illness and medications.

I explained it to one of my best friends once, and I was really hurt because she said that my sister just needed Jesus, and prayer, and that the medication wasn't helping her. She even had the nerve to say that my sister just wanted the pills so she could be high. My sister has a drug abuse and alcohol background, but I believe it was caused by her illness not the other way around.

One medication makes my sister sleep a lot. If she tries to stay awake it actually makes it worse.
I am not exactly sure what she has becaue she is ashamed to talk about it, but it is nice to hear that you can find happiness eventually. She is having a hard time with this, she sometimes hears voices. When she first told me I didn't take it seriously at all, and I thought she was joking, until I actually had to witness her on one of her "trips". I hope everything goes well for you. Just from watching my sister struggle, I know how hard it is. It's hard on me too because there really isn't much I can do for her. I sometimes wish I could just switch places with her it's hard to watch a younger sibling go through it when no one else in my family has had to deal with it or has any experiences with it.
Thanks for listening and posting!

abbagirl74 said...

Posts like this are so inspirational to many people.

Good morning!

Mark Wall said...

Thanks for sharing this information, it gives hope to many of us that suffer from mental illness.


Thanks Andrew for this great post. And it makes so much've actually helped me in many ways due to my post partum parinatal and post natal depression...matter of fact I may go write about it now.
Hope you're doing well today!
13days to go!

Pen and the Sword said...

You are absolutely right, Andrew. Your illness goes beyond herbal remedies. I used to believe in hollistic remedies myself, that is, until people started croaking left and right because of he lack of research on certain herbs.

I suffer from depression and was taking an herbal supplement called Nutrizac. It worked great until some idiot OD'd on Kava Kava (a natural sedative) and died. They took that ingredient out of Nutrizac and it hasn't worked the same since.

I am also happy to read of your symptoms so that I can understand and empathsize with my grandma. For years I would make fun of her because she would barracade her doors and carry a loaded hand pistol and cry out, "the Mexican is going to get me!" We live in Backwoods Minnesota. There are no Mexicans. But now rather than ridicule her, I can understand that she simply needs help. I can only hope that someday she does.

justLacey said...

Todays medicines are sometimes made from things that mimic what herbals remedies do. Also, some are made from the same plants. Schizoprehia is very complicated to treat. You are very lucky to find something that works for you and I am glad you have. Life is hard enough without paranoia and voives thrown in on top of it.

Summer said...

I have an old friend from h.s. that is manic depressive. He is always, always, trying herbal remedies,trashing his medications and chaos ensues. He is always trying to get me to buy stuff off the internet that is going to cure my RA. I wish it were that easy for all of us.

Stacy said...

I am with you Andrew, I believe it is a disease. Although herbs may work well for other things, I do not believe they help with mental illness. My sister is bipolar and experiences some bouts of paranoia. I'm wondering if she could be schizophrenic too?? It's not like I'm going to walk up to her one day and say "Hi, do you think you could be schizophrenic?" I'm not sure that would go over very well.
Anyway, I'm so happy that you are feeling so well and the medications are working.

Eric said...

When I worked at a small convenience store a few years back, I met a wonderful older gentleman that spent most of his day in our store at a table near the register. We became friends and through that friendship I was exposed to schizophrenia for the first time. I whole heartedly agree that this is a disease and should be treated as such. I believe in the power of prayer and I believe that God can work miracles, but He also created doctors for a reason. He expects us to utilize the resources He has provided for us, like the medical community.
I think the facet of his illness that haunted me was weeks or months after he had a lapse and had "lived" in his alternative world, he would still have memories of the things that his illness made him believe happened, even though he knew that they never actually happened.
I don't get to see him anymore since I have moved away, but I am so grateful that I met him, not only for the insight he gave me into his illness, but also for the honor I had of meeting a truly loving, kind individual.

shy_smiley said...

Hey, Andrew. How ya faring without Rosa? I'll miss reading about her.

Modern medicine is miraculous in the way that chemical imbalances can be treated. I battled depression for years and resisted treatment because I thought I could get through it myself, if only I balanced my diet, got more sleep, exercised more, started doing daily yoga, quit drinking alcohol, quit my job, divorced my husband... finally I sought treatment and take 10 mg of Lexapro a day. My life has changed completely because my chemistry is better balanced. There's nothing in the plant world that can do that. St. John's Wort and melatonin might alleviate symptoms, but medication treats the cause. I'm glad you've found something that works for you, too.

Always a pleasure reading your blog.