I've lived successfully in recovery from schizophrenia for 25 years: all of my adult life. I'm here to say that you can recover and go on to have a good life.
On Sept. 25, 1987, I had a breakdown that was sudden, total and irreversible. A NAMI survey report, Schizophrenia: Public Attitudes, Private Needs, has revealed an average delay of 8.5 years between onset of schizophrenia symptoms and first treatment. I received the right help within 24 hours of my breakdown: I got sick on a Friday afternoon and by that Saturday morning, my mother drove me to the hospital.
On the ward, I was given an antipsychotic medication, stayed for three weeks, and was released. My mother's courageous act—to get me the help I needed, no matter how it looked—made all the difference. I recovered because of my mother, Mary Ann Bruni.
Early intervention is the key to success. My story is hopeful and inspiring most of all to people diagnosed with mental illnesses. It shows that you don't have to go through endless hell and heartache before you get better. Yet it is also important that members of the public understand the need for quick action when a loved one develops schizophrenia.
I'm 47 years old now, on the cusp of mid-life, and I've learned some things in recovery: take your medication every day as prescribed and talk with your psychiatrist honestly about what's going on. The one and only three-month drug holiday I went on caused me to relapse.
Do the things you love, every day or as often as you can. At 35, I obtained a Masters in Library and Information Science (M.S.) and have worked 12 years as a public service librarian. I credit working at this job I love with enabling me to recover as fully as I have.
There is always hope, for you if you have a mental illness or for your loved one if he or she has a diagnosis.
I'll end by telling you that your life and your recovery can get better with age. At mid-life, I've suddenly become a cook: I buy cookbooks, shop at the local Greenmarkets and try my hand at recipes.
Tonight I'm cooking eggplant rollatini. Care to join me?
Christina Bruni is a columnist for SZ magazine and blogs for Health Central's schizophrenia community