Recovery Expressions

C.M.’s Story – 24 – British Columbia

The only thing worse than having a mental illness is finally admitting you need help. Who would want to be labeled mentally ill? I learned of the stigma of mental illness at a very young age. My father was diagnosed with schizophrenia and all I heard is that he was ‘crazy’. This made my life very hard. I was convinced I had to suffer in silence, because I didn’t want to be “crazy”!

“Say hi to the crazy bugger for me!” I’ll never forget those words (describing my father), they echo in my head. And so I began my battle with the stigma of mental illness.

I was a shy child and like some shy girls this led to low self-esteem. In my case this led to social anxiety and because of a chemical imbalance I inherited, my anxiety led to paranoia. In high school I was sure I was being watched (at all times). But it wasn’t until I got to college I realized who was watching me. Here my elaborate, psychotic (but quiet) break from reality begins.

In the four years following I came to believe that our universe was created by Aliens and they were watching us develop (like in a Petri dish). But unfortunately they were disappointed in how we polluted our earth and how we treated each other (i.e. wars). So they decided to try again (a new universe!) But they needed someone to ‘run’ it, for it to remain peaceful and clean. This is when they contacted me, and began to prepare me to be Queen.

They talked to me daily and reminded me I was beautiful. I told no-one about my delusions and no-one suspected, because I did not show the ‘signs’ of schizophrenia, my father displayed; lack of self care, apathy and social withdrawal. I knew these were the signs, and I feared the stigma so much – I had to prove I was not crazy!!! So I compensated to prove I was not sick. Therefore I must have had some insight but the scientist helped by telling me that if I was labeled sick or put in a hospital I’d be stripped of my Queen status.

I was quite happy with my secret for a long time. My self- confidence soared until I graduated college and the stress of finding a real job kicked in. Stress made the symptoms stronger and I lost all touch with reality.

I was alone and the aliens said they had to crawl into my body (to see my insides) so they could clone me and populate the new universe. They got stuck in my hands; they were afraid and screaming and told me to cut myself to let them out. When I began to cut I got scared and called for help.

I ended up in the hospital and I would like to describe to you what the first while was like but I have no memory. I have foggy pieces of memories for along time after getting out also. I was entered into the PEPP program and received the help I needed. Help for understanding the illness, contacting financial services, employment counseling, medication, cognitive therapy, etc. But no one understood how I felt! Why I had to cut and how devastated I was to realize I was not a Queen (just a normal person). There just weren’t enough descriptive words in the English language. So I began express myself with art. My mom (my advocate, biggest support, best friend and hero) has gone as far as to state “art helped to save my daughters life!”

For me, there is no recovery, there is no drive to be back to my old self. I feel born again, brand new. I will always take my medication (to stay in this world and it was two years convincing me of that) but I have, and still am, re-evaluating my whole existence and belief system. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’ll be (career wise). I have some ideas, and when I decide NOTHING WILL STOP ME! But I’m going to do it all in this world!