Having schizophrenia, which I have had since my 20s (I am now 33) does not mean that life has ended for me - It has not.
The path of my recovery began, oddly enough, during the early 1990s. I had been laid off as a proofreader for a large company in Philadelphia and the stress brought on my joblessness (after nearly 2 years of steady employment). This, coupled with the sluggish economy of that time, led to feelings of worthlessness within myself. After a year of unemployment, I suddenly began to have hallucinations and very bizarre thoughts until finally, the entire period culminated with my first stay in the psychiatric ward of a major hospital.
Aside from the shock of being in such a place, what stays in my mind regarding my first night in the ward is the reassuring care of several psychiatric nurses who told me that recovery from my illness was possible. Had it not been for those several caring psychiatric nurses, including one nurse who held my hand and gently comforted me during my first night, I never would have believed that I would be working and be doing as well as I am today. That nurse's human touch and hopeful words did more to lift my spirits than anything I can remember.
That night, the nurses also told me to expect to return to work, to acknowledge my current state and face it, to not evade the seriousness of my illness, and to believe that I would regain the sense of myself that was lost.
Psychiatric nurses should be encouraged to give persons who are experiencing mental illness hope that a return from the disease is possible. Looking back, I recall that the nurses in the ward that night and throughout my stay told me to expect to recover from my illness, that returning to work was possible and to believe it was so. They were right.
Now, after 2 years of unemployment following the onset of my illness, to my great surprise, I am working again, and the best thing about working again after experiencing a mental illness is the sense of normalcy - of fulfillment, even - that I have.
Although at times it can be taxing, working has restored the self-confidence I lost once my mental illness and its aftermath took hold. Relating to people in the old way, accepting responsibility, and carrying out my duties just like anyone else, has given me the feeling that anything is possible for me. Individuals who have left the hospital after suffering from a mental illness should know that work can restore them.