Living Life to the Best of Your Ability

Tom Kelly; Tempe, AZ

During your mental health care, have you often felt hopeful about your chance of getting better?

At first I didn’t see any hope. I was in a few different hospitals in the eastern part of the country and wasn’t given any follow-up care to speak of! When I came to Arizona and began receiving services in the public mental health system for the first time … ever … then the support that came along with that started to give me a little hope. When I started becoming more involved in advocacy and meeting others who were doing a little better than me that gave me a lot more hope!

In what ways have you found psychiatric medication(s) helpful, if any?

Psychiatric medications helped me get to the point where I could once again start feeling and having hope … once I started having a little more hope I turned more to mutual peer support and helping others (which is great medicine).

In what ways have you found psychiatric medication(s) harmful, if any?

When I was first diagnosed and put into the hospital the drugs basically put me in a place where I couldn’t do much. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t concentrate … they dulled my cognitive abilities.

During your mental health care, have you often felt hopeless about your chance of getting better?

[At one point] I actually lost my support and my job … when my world collapsed I fell into another deep suicidal depression and attempted to end my life! Thankfully I was unsuccessful and I ended up back in Arizona where I reconnected to my social support, my peer support and the behavioral health system. It takes all three to help me!

Has a mental health provider ever told you that you could not reach a personal goal because of your psychiatric diagnosis?

I had a doctor that told me I should just give up and not bother about thinking about going back to work at all. “Just be thankful that you have social security,” he said. Well today I work 45-50 hours a week and I am doing relatively fine … depending on the day!

If you overcame hopelessness that you could get better from a mental health or emotional problem, was there a turning point for you?

… the ER doc that saved my life when I first overdosed and spent four or five days in a coma came up to see me in the Psych Ward and said “I know that you are probably not happy to be alive – many folks who try to kill themselves are not happy when they fail – but my job is to save lives – I just wanted to let you know that I am glad that you are alive even though you may not feel that way.” He didn’t judge me, he didn’t criticize me, he treated me with respect and dignity.

Tell us what recovery means to you. How would you define recovery from mental health or emotional problems in your own words?

My definition of recovery has been and always will be … Recovery is getting a life! It is not about symptoms going away; it is about developing a new meaning and purpose in life and living life to the best of your ability!!