National Schizophrenia Awareness Day 25th July 2023

Crazy about getting back to a normal life

So, it was midnight in the middle off France and my decisions and fate rest amongst Heaven and Hell. I knew I cared about everyone, I always had. But the guilty feeling (and voices) I had was why didn’t I take my life for them after all the world was going to burn, it was all over the news.  I could save it all, even reverse climate change, if only I’d die!

Yes, well, that was the epitome of my delusional thinking, though it’s still hard to 100% think otherwise.

The social environment I grew up in was very pressured, you could maybe argue I had the genes for it. But, I was heavily bullied to the sense that I was traumatised but verbally, psychologically, emotionally and physically on a moment by moment basis during my school years. The bullies had taught me that they held the key to my happiness, they would never give this to me, I’d keep yearning. So, for eons, I followed their hard love down the road of wanting to be accepted.  And this continued at Uni and in the world of work too.

Basically, living terrified for a good 10-12 year (maybe I still am).  All I could think of at the time was my life was over. The thought of earning a living and affording the luxuries of a variety of freedoms in life seemed all lost.

I was given the opportunity after going to “rescue my Mum and Grandad”, and after being in a day psychiatric unit and being diagnosed, to attend a disability college.  

Here there was a variety of students, physical and mental disabilities, studying things like: IT; Landscape Gardening; Accountancy (what I did. The qualification was an Oxford Cambridge RSA) etc and after sitting an exam your CV would be updated and actively plugged into the job market.

From there I found employment where I successfully stayed for 2.5 years. Then it was difficult to interview with the pressure they liked to add without feeling like a nervous wreck. But recently I have moved into the Public Sector working for, and have found that, as I mentioned at the start, being in a role that has a positive effect on the quality of the lives of islanders satisfies that underlying emotion (which I can say is the same willingness to help my colleagues have) I had all those years ago, when I was in the cusp of Hebephrenic Schizophrenia and it makes me think… maybe I can help people, especially islanders, without the end of living a short life!

My department is very accommodating and allows me to inlayer and bring down a lot of the defences. This helps me as a 41-year-old to you know, come to terms with me. Yes, it’s still a professional environment, but the positive impacts can only come from the top down 1st.

The point to my meandering babbling is education opportunities can have a drastic impact on someone like me allowing for social mobility and having a positive outlook for a variety of life chances.

Mental illness goes hand in hand with poverty, and that leads to homelessness which can be a very scary life affecting experience even with our fortune of having a number of shelters on the island. I volunteer for a number of things like Focus UP (a think tank part of Focus on Mental Illness) Mind Jersey and Equals by Experience (facilitated by Director of Mental Health Andy Weir). The reason for me mentioning this is through therapeutic and educational services provided by places like Jersey Employment Trust, Acorn, Jersey Recovery College and more! There is still more we can do, which is why I bang the drum through my voluntary work to get people like me back in to work and contributing on our wealthy island.  

I understand there are great things happening like funded office internships for people with an autistic diagnosis. That is a beautiful opportunity. Is it possible to work further towards providing a route back in to employment for a variety of skills (my bias would be the office work, as this is our island staple, for psychiatric sufferers)? I personally think we can. Can employers sponsor people in recovery through obtaining skills to access their vacancies? We need to get our thinking caps on. This could comprehensively satisfy a number of islander’s political concerns.

Most of all it could give people their lives back.

Luke Canavan – Focus UP volunteer

I am a nurse, a friend and a daughter!

My name is Sara and I have schizophrenia. When I was first diagnosed it felt quite overwhelming and a little scary. This was due to the stigma surrounding schizophrenia.

Since my diagnosis I take medication to help with my psychotic symptoms. Mostly these are antipsychotics again I refrain from talking about this with my friends due to stigma of. Unfortunately, antipsychotics have some negative side effects such as weight gain and I have found exercise not only helps combat the weight gain but it helps with the symptoms of schizophrenia. Other ways that help with symptoms is journaling. With schizophrenia sometimes, I struggle to know what’s real and what’s not so when I journal I’m able to challenge this and get down my thought’s feelings and reality.

Lastly, I want to add just because I have a diagnosis of schizophrenia doesn’t make me a dangerous person. Quite often I’m placid or slightly confused due to my symptoms. Yes, I hear voices but no they don’t tell me to hurt other people as some people may think. They confuse me but never do they tell me to hurt others like movies and what other people may think. My name is Sara and I have schizophrenia but I am also a nurse, a friend and a daughter where I am able to have a good time with others and forget about my diagnosis.