The side effects of the medication for schizophrenia can often take a toll on Dave, but he isn’t letting this stop him. In this special blog for Rethink Schizophrenia, Dave looks at his recovery and his hopes for the future, in his own words, with irreverent humour and insight.
I can't think which is worse: Having schizophrenia or being a psychiatrist. Neither is good really, but I suppose I'll have to stick to what I am least worst at which is having schizophrenia. The downside of that is that I have to be injected with Haldol every two weeks, which is like a recreational drug only one that has been genetically engineered by John Major. I try and be philosophical about things, which is difficult when you can't really think, but I find that contemplating how awful it would be to be a psychiatrist helps.
The story of my illness is long, boring and depressing, so I've decided to focus in this blog on my recovery. Had I not been ill I would probably be filling my face with beer every weekend and working an excruciating nine to five job for the rest of the time, so I am actually quite glad that being in recovery can mean that you are able to do fun things in the name of health and wellbeing. I attend a drop-in centre where I play board-games and do stuff like gardening or guitar group. It's not too shabby I guess, although I sometimes would like to go out at the weekend and fill my face with beer, just for once. I'm tee-total though, and a vegetarian, which I find necessary to maintain my health. Basically I've got to be ultra-healthy to stay well. If I eat unhealthily I feel horrible, and I can only imagine what damage a heavy night out would do. So it's board-games for now, which is ok because I enjoy losing at Scrabble as much as the next person.
As part of my recovery I try and keep busy, and I am currently working towards finding employment by doing voluntary work. Again, it's okay I guess, but I feel tired a lot of the time and I worry about whether I'll be able to hold down a job if I find one.
I'm on the notorious P.I.P. so I've got a basic income, although I worry about my future and wether I'll be able to support myself, especially as benefits get cut with each successive government.
When I'm not busy I'm usually lying on the sofa feeling depressed and I find it difficult to get motivated to do much. I used to go to the gym two or three times a week, but the Haldol (medication) has put an end to that and now I'm lucky if I go once every week. I like walking, playing guitar and writing, and my hobbies are an important part of staying well for me. It sometimes seems a bit self-indulgent to be going for a walk whilst everyone else is at work, but it's not that I just feel like going for a nice walk in the countryside. I enjoy the walks and the activities at the drop-in centre, but I have to do them to stay well – if I tried to work your average office job, I'd probably not be able to stick it out and I'd make myself unwell again. Besides, I've got a long gap on my CV which stops me doing much in terms of employment. So I go for my walks and play board-games. Sometimes it feels a bit like being a laboratory mouse. I hate animal experimentation because I feel too much sympathy for the research animals, which also makes it difficult to find work because I have a biology degree.
The future looks bright, or at least a maungy shade of orange. I feel quite positive about my recovery, which triggers my brain cells to try and release dopamine which gives me a headache. It's difficult to be enthusiastic when your brain chemistry has been engineered to give you the personality of a glass of water, but I try and use humour to help me feel less bored and depressed. We're a dying breed, people whith schizophrenia, along with smokers and red pandas; the average life expectancy for men with schizophrenia is twenty years less than men in the general population; for women it's twelve years less. This is down to the side effects of the medication and the lack of attention paid to physical health. We, like pandas, need more effort and attention paid to us.
Help us make a difference, share this with your friends.
Read more about life with schizophrenia.