What I Have Become

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

I never did find them helpful. I guess I bought into the dream that I could only get better if I took medication. I had terrible side effects and finally talked my doctor to allow me to try healing without the chemical help. Once the medication was out of my system, I started to heal using my reconnection to my higher power, started working and developed a peer program, which I am the director of, and working with peers to help peers. I also worked with an art therapist for three years, and my last 10 years of therapy I worked with a great therapist who really helped me understand that I was a person who deserved the good things in life. I really credit most of my growth and learned understanding to her.

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

I had terrible side effects. One medication cause me to fall. My doctor kept me on it without telling me that it was a side effect. In that period I broke my nose twice, my pelvis, fingers, ankle and spent many days isolated recovering. Another medication caused my brain to shrink. I did not know it was a side effect, until after I was taken off of it. I had been on experimental drugs and just about every drug out there (while I was still trying to get well. I had equilibrium problems and still have a leg that continues to drag when I am tired. For me, medication did more harm than good. I healed so much faster being off medications.

Has a mental health provider ever told you that you could reach a personal goal despite your psychiatric diagnosis (for example, education, career, independent housing, relationship, children, etc.)?

Yes. My last therapist and once I started work as a peer, pretty much everyone that I come in contact too. My family, my children, my co-workers. I just finished a mental health certification program from our local junior college…I got a lot of good feedback from them. The belief in wellness and recovery for everyone has helped people see me in a better light.

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

Today I have a confidence that I never had. I was always apologizing for my existence. I run a Peer Program in my community. It was conceived by me and I continue to run the program. Last year my program was made a permanent program (the first peer program) by the city and county where I work. We run peer groups in the hospital, we work with clinics providing case management services. We have started a transgender services and it grows every week. This service also runs groups in the jail for this population. We work with the homeless population,and recently started a program with persons living in Residential Care homes, providing groups for social growth and Educational and support. There are 60 homes in my county. No small project, we have only 10 peers three work almost full time the rest work part time. I keep busy and well. My peers are very supportive of each other, which is something I work hard at continuing.

Can you give examples showing you have gotten better from a mental or emotional problem, such as how you are doing well or accomplishing goals you have chosen?

I talk to groups of people about what I was and what I have become. I talk about my grandkids and how they are my strength. When I start to have symptoms, I refocus my energy and thoughts to something else, like looking at pictures of my grand kids and I remember something funny they did or said and I start to laugh. Humor is a good antidote to hopelessness/helplessness. Sometimes I just need to remove myself from where I am and do deep breathing, trying to bring myself back into balance. As a last resort I will leave where I am at (physically) and go for a walk. [I am] trying to take care of myself, because if I do not, I can not be of any help to anyone else. If nothing else works, I will take a day or two off to play with my puppy.