Four years ago I wouldn’t even entertain the notion of mental illness, let alone allow myself to admit to suffering from it. “Craziness is for the weak,” I thought. I felt so far removed from the idea that the mere thought of it made me uncomfortable. “It’s an excuse,” I thought. “A crutch used by those who can’t deal with life. People can choose to will themselves through any situation they put their minds to, why can’t these ‘mentally ill’ people get their acts together?”
Unfortunately, such a stance would soon be replaced with a harsh reality I was hardly prepared to deal with. My life was slowly but surely changing, as I too would succumb to a struggle with my own mind. One thing I have learned through my confrontation with mental illness is that people can change, and now the way in which I view myself, others, and the world has been forever altered due to my experiences. Although I wouldn’t wish aspects of my experience on my worst enemy, I can say that I have emerged as a more complete, compassionate and grounded individual.
I have changed for the better.
My struggles have provided me with direction and a purpose: to help those less fortunate than I am. I believe that by helping others, one can find true satisfaction in life. I originally planned on a career in sports, pursuing a degree in sport management, but found this to be a hollow pursuit (not to mention I was not particularly suited for the field). Encountering, first-hand, the prejudice exhibited by the general public and some mental health professionals was truly a life-transforming experience. There was a personal struggle dealing with the self-stigma one adopts when being labeled, “mentally ill”.
We are bombarded almost daily with media portrayals of crazed schizophrenic killers and psychotic murderers that it is easy to see why the public subscribes to such inaccurate views. There was a time when I was in a dark place unable to leave the house just after I had been released from hospital care, but the turning point came when I stopped feeling sorry for myself and stopped relying solely on the mental health system to somehow save me. Don’t get me wrong – there is an appropriate time for grieving, as one loses a piece of themselves when admitted to hospital for an illness of the mind. The rounds of medication, the side effects, the loss of social contacts, dealing with nurses, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals can leave one reeling and searching for answers. I personally grappled with the realization that I was in a hospital for something I’d once deemed for the weak, for something intangible and hardly perceptible. I struggled with the “why me?” question, though I soon found myself grateful for being lucid enough to even ponder such a question, I slowly reintegrated myself into society. Through my passion for volunteering, I discovered that contributing to my society allowed me to will myself out of the depths of my mental disorder. I have now set my sights on continuing my education to become a social service worker with a focus on mental health. Delusional disorder and psychotic episodes were the diagnoses but will not be my life sentence.
Mental Vagabond is a 24 year old who suffered from psychosis and delusional disorder. He is currently receiving mental health treatment and is on the road to a full recovery. He hopes to share his experiences to help those who may be going through similar problems to learn that they are not alone and that there is hope. Follow his story on HMC's Supportive Minds Blog.