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West 47th Street

Premiere Date: August 19, 2003

   

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Mental illness touches millions of lives, but each story is different. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans struggles with some form of mental illness in any given year. Research shows that getting to know someone with a mental illness helps fight the stigma and misunderstanding that surround these disorders. Learn more about what it's like to deal with a mental illness from these personal stories submitted by viewers. Or share your own! You can browse stories by clicking on the menu below or you can view a fact sheet and learn more about specific topics by clicking on a topic below.

Schizophrenia More info

September 30, 2003

I have spent over half of my life being "serverely and chronicly ill." What a label to break free from. The chaos that I caused for family, friends, and myself is not tangible. I am blessed to still be here. By what, I'm not sure; but I'm sure that I have been blessed. --------- The first part of my ongoing recovery was continuously fostered by both my mother and my father. They "hung on" for me, when I couldn't. I DO NOT know if I would be here without them.----------------------------------------- Yeah here, married to a wonderful man, the mother of three beutiful dogs (oh yes-3), workng full time at a fun and fulfilling job, sitting in our new house, and finally having more good days than bad.___________________________ 9 years ago, in a moment of clarity, my goal became to "sit still with myself." 5 years later, I almost could. Life at that tiime can only be described as "a balance of extremes." Persistence and practice. Learning what made me well was what made happy. Figuring out what made me well, well was another uphill battle.___________________________________ In the beginning, it was 98% medicaton & 2% breathing. Now, it is 50% medication, 30% learning how to manage my illness more effectively, 11% persistance, and 9% humor._ I love my life. Things are finally good. I know who I am. I know how I feel. AND I know when I am getting sick. I KNOW THAT I AM NOT "THE EXCEPTION."

  —Anonymous
  New York

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
• Schizophrenia
• Substance Abuse



September 30, 2003

After working in the "System" as a Forensic Psychiatric Social Worker, I feel that I have touched these people's lives in a way that I never dreamed possible. Only those who work with these very special people can truly understand their needs. There needs to be more education on the elementary thru high school level for all children in the country to give them a greater sense of responsibility for the mentally ill.

  —Judith (CSW)
  New York


• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
• Substance Abuse



September 30, 2003

I have been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder which is Bi-Polar and Schizophrenia put together. I am thankful that my illness is treatable with medication and psycho therapy. I take it as a sense of achievement to be out of therapy now and I only have to see my therapist once every six months unless I need to see him as needed. I actually now have a Bachelor's Degree with Honor's and a Master's Degree, I am now looking for work. I like to read the bible it is very comforting to me now and I can think about religion without going to extrems. Thinking about religion was not my only problem, I had a problem with intrusive thoughts of like hurting myself or breaking things. I think I get intrusive thoughts when I do a medication change. I am thankful though that I have not had intrusive thoughts for over two months since I have gotten used to my new medication. There is hope for everyone.

  —Anonymous

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
• Schizophrenia



August 22, 2003

I see people everyday with all types of mental illnesses- from chronic schizophrenia to bi-polar, major depression to borderline personality disorder. But like I said, I see people- each with their individual strengths, abilities and personalities. I work at a Fountain House Model clubhouse- Bridge House in Bridgeport Connecticut. I get angry when I see the stigma my members have to deal with daily. The way people assume they're ignorant or dangerous. The way the government cuts the most needy first. I wish more people understood that having a mental illness is like having diabetes. They didn't ask for it or get it by being bad people. It's a disease that with the right treatment and/or medicine, most people can live a "normal" productive life. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

  —LG
  Connecticut



August 21, 2003

"What I Lost From Schizophrenia and What I Gained!" 1986-1998 I lost 12 years of my life. I lost my self esteem. I lost my independence. I lost some of my faith in G-d. I lost my pride. 1990-present I earned a Bachelors Degree( in 8 years) I have worked at the same (clerical) job for 13 years. I discovered that people who I thought didn't care "really do." I am finding self-esteem and pride in myself. Everyone I know supports and cares about me, even people I didn't expect like the people at my favorite delicatessen. I regained my faith in G-d. I learned that tenacity, perserverance, family, friends, self-education on schizophrenia, and finding the right medication, are paramount in finding success and wellness. I have never had to hide from my illness and I thank my family for creating a haven for me where I could flourish and grow. In Sept. 2001 (with a lot of help) I purchased a townhouse! It is amazing to me what can happen when the people in your community rally around you instead of having stigma kill your dreams and maybe even you! I have experienced the best that medicine has to offer me over these last 17 years and even though there were days I wished I didn't exist, those were the times that G-d carried me and helped me through! To all of you who don't believe in keeping hope alive I say, "Never give up." A new medicine or treatment is just around the corner.

  —Debra

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• Schizophrenia



August 20, 2003

For many of us with psychiatric histories, the concept of "mental illness" just doesn't fit our experience. "Illness" implies a pathogen, which is not the case for people who experience extreme mental or emotional states. The literature shows that the overwhelming majority of people who end up in the mental health system are survivors of childhood sexual or physical abuse; again, that is not an "illness." And those of us with psychiatric histories can be subjected against our will to things like electroshock, powerful mind-altering drugs with devastating side-effects, physical restraint, and a host of other so-called "treatments." This issue is not about "illness," it's about how society deals with people who are different, living on the margins, or experiencing difficulties in living. We don't have "diseases," therefore the diagnoses you list here are not relevant to the real problem, which is a human rights problem.

  —Darby
  New York



August 20, 2003

Around Christmas, my boyfriend of 4 years was diagnosed with schizophrenia after 2 years of being told he suffered from anxiety or depression. Two months later, he committed suicide, probably due to a horrific hallucination. Not enough awareness/education is available on this disease, too much stigmatism and negativity is given to it, and not enough support for those who have it/live with it. There was plenty of hope for my loved one, he had a normal life, was completing a degree, was raising my child with me, we planned to marry, and he had a good job. People with schizophrenia are no different than any one else with any other disease. But yet they are so much at risk for losing support from family, friends, and society, and for losing their own lives to their own hands. As a society, we need to stop being scared of what we don't know, and learn more. Ignorance is not bliss. It's deadly.

  —Amber

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• Schizophrenia



August 20, 2003

I experienced paranoid schizophrenia in 1979 after smoking weed. I thought the FBI,CIA, local police and even the devil were after me. I heard voices telling me that they were god and that I should kill my kids to save the world from destruction and a lot of other negative things. With meds and therapy I was able to continue to hold my job and standard of living and able to retire last year. I think that education about the illness is the key to overcoming the illness and that the ones that understand the illness best are those that experienced it first hand.

  —John

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• Schizophrenia



August 20, 2003

My story has a positive twist regarding mental illness. I am 37-year-old professional and the daughter of an alcoholic and a schizophrenic. This has been lifetime struggle for me to cope with. The only diagnoses Ive ever had are occasional bouts with generalized anxiety and IBS. My story relates to my boyfriend of a year. He has moderate OCD, gets excellent treatment and is considered quite successful by societys standards. I wouldve never considered engaging in a relationship with a man with an SMI prior to knowing him. Too socially unacceptable. The beauty of dating him is that I do not have to hide my own history. I have spent my life in fear of judgment by people I get close to. With him, I can let the curtain down, be myself and allow the issues that are a result of my own insane childhood to emerge. No more hiding. Not to say that we do not have occasional struggles related to his OCD but for the first time in my life I am allowed to have a struggle or two of my own and they are met with

  —Anonymous

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Anxiety Disorders
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
• Schizophrenia
• Substance Abuse



August 20, 2003

My siblings and I suffered mental and physical abuse at the hands of our parents throughout our lives. We were raised in a religion which excluded us from outside socializing and most traditional holidays. Our father was the "hand of god" and carried the rod without reinforcement of nurturing. As a result, several of us have had to go through counseling for depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and most recently schizophrenia. My youngest brothers are twins, have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. One brother, who has suffered physical pain from fibromyalgia and hears voices. He was overmedicated, in pain and frustrated and tried to purchase a gun to end his life. Now the justice system has accused him of lying on the application based on a technicality and without consideration for his history or conditions. I fear that his living situation, probation process, and fines incurred will push him further over the edge. He is very angry with his situation but is a gentle, sweet, and creative person.

  —Tere

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Anxiety Disorders
• Clinical Depression
• Schizophrenia



August 20, 2003

I was seventeen and living with my brother who was in the navy when my first episode happened. My brother didn't know how to handle the situation so he had his girlfriend lock me up. From jail they sent me to a psychiatric hospital which I left to come back home to New York when i turned eighteen. When I arrived to the Bronx, no one wanted to deal with me so I ended up living on the streets for 3 years. One day I was sleeping on the stairs of a church called Holy Cross on the corner of 179 and Fort Washington when I heard a voice call my name. When I looked, it was my mother who just happened to be at that church that day. Two months later I got hospitalized at Lincoln Hospital. I was there for a couple of weeks then I got transfered to Bronx Psychiatric Hospital , where I had to learn how to live with my illness. Nine months later I was released, I've been receiving treatment for 3 and a half years now. I am now stable and have been attending college for two semesters!

  —Cesar

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• Schizophrenia



August 20, 2003

I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 19. Due to being put on Haldol, I began to gain weight. I am now 52. I have had 6 hospitalizations altogether; however, I was not on Disability til 1998. I worked as a French teacher, and I worked for the State of Indiana as a caseworker and supervisor for AFDC, Medicaid and Food Stamps (8 yrs caseworker, 4 years supervisor). I even went to PR China for 3 months and taught ESL. All this time my schiz. was mostly controlled with medication, but I was still paranoid and had delusions I lived with. From 1991-2001 I weighed over 300 lbs. In 1998 I had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (they thought), diabetes, and hypertension. I took over 20 pills a day. I had an episode and got on SSDI. I had so much support from the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic- housing, case management, community living classes etc., that I had hope. I went to the gym every day, walked every evening, and joined Overeaters Anon. Now I weigh 157 and have no diagnosed illnesses other than the schiz. I lost over 150 lbs.so far. I work as an English and French tutor at the local community college as well as for the ESL department and the ADA dept. People at the gym and in my life in general consider me a miracle person, but really it just takes perserverence, parents who accept and love you no matter what, and 12 steps. I am still losing weight, and I hike in the mountains here as well as ride a bike, have many friends etc. I still live in WYGC housing, but I am able to manage my own money and supprot myself for the most part. I hope that those people who have

  —Judy
  Arizona

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• Schizophrenia



August 19, 2003

Each time I encounter the metaphor, "mental illness," I wonder how many people who employ it would also employ "physical illness" in the same manner: "People with physical illness", and I know the answer: None. The public prejudice of the "singular" illness is one of the worst of the sources of prejudices we face. I am also bothered by the prejudice of "the." I believed we had learned from WWII the heinous results of categorizing people by a "the," but we have not. The first of the "the's" to be medically murdered were "the" mentally ill, in a gas chamber invented by doctors, Brandenburg 1939. There is no "the" mentally ill, it IS a Nazi metaphor, and it survives. Why? There is no "the" homeless, it is the same metaphor. Why must we endure it.

  —Harold A. Maio
  Florida



August 19, 2003

Born: 1962 Treated for ADD: 1969 - 1974 Drug abuse while away at school (cannabis, hallucinogens): 1979 - 1980 Hospitalizations, as per schizophrenia and bipolar: served 4 1-month terms, 1980 - 1983, community hospital psych wards. Graduated college, BSEE: 1988 Civil Servant: 1988 - 2003; minor nervous collapse; panic disorder: 1992 Currently: DSM IV 295.70; schizoaffective/bipolar type; under meds management, office visits. Live alone in owned 4-bedroom colonial on 0.21 acre. I think it was my parents that made me follow the rules and stick with the program, so they get most of the credit. I have a job with strict quotas, only I like to take my time and follow a ritual (e.g., OCD). My EEO prospects are dim, from reading the handout. But then, year after year after fiscal, never-take-a-risk-al year, I somehow pull in what I need. I am 41, earn 6 figures, and will die with many toys. I suppose I'm stronger than I think, living alone in that big old house on the cul-de-sac. Like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, I would think that repeated humility, mixed, too, with sad disillusionment, has given me this strange prize.



August 18, 2003

I have had multiple diagnoses over the years, the most current being Schizoaffective Disorder. It's been a struggle and I have been hospitalized for suicide attempts. I have overcome childhood abuse and alcoholism. I don't ever remember not being clinically depressed, even as a child. There were times when my anxiety was so high I couldn't leave the house. Then, in my late teens and especially in the late 20's, the paranoid and delusional thoughts began. My life in "reality" began about five years ago with the concept of recovery. Today, I hold a job as an executive secretary, am married, and have a beautiful 4-year-old daughter. I will always take medications and have a counselor available when things get too overwhelming. I have a great support system. Recovery is possible if all of these factors are in place, but it also takes being willing to look at myself and be honest with myself at all times. I have to be responsible and do simple daily living tasks, even when I don't feel like it.

  —Anonymous
  Ohio

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Anxiety Disorders
• Clinical Depression
• Borderline Personality Disorder
• Schizophrenia



August 18, 2003

My daughter was in her teens when I noticed that her problems were more intense than those of her friends. By the time she was 23 she experienced an episode which landed her in the hospital. The diagnosis was unsure and it took another 5-8 years to come up with bipolar with schizoid features and another couple for that to stick. She is 35 now and the traumas of going through many hospitalizations, med changes, alcohol dependence and well meant but ineffective treatment have taken their toll. She has become delusional, can't get or keep a job, was unable to complete grad school, via meds and alcohol gained 50+ pounds, has lost just about all her friends, and denies that she has this problem. Our system does not work...and...that's the short version.

  —Anonymous
  Washington

Opens in a new window Learn more about:
• Schizophrenia
• Substance Abuse



August 7, 2003

I was molested by a family member starting when I was very small until I reached puberty. As a result of that and of the social climate where that was allowed to happen, I struggle with depression, suicidal feelings, and a sometimes irresistible desire to hurt myself. Over the years, I have heard a mental health professional say that sexual abuse isn't damaging to the child. I've been told by a psychiatrist that "there was no excuse" for me to still be experiencing difficulties and in therapy. Too many times, staff in psych wards are verbally abusive and blaming. I'm not telling you this because I want pity. I'm saying these things because I hope you can make people feel on an emotional level and in their gut, what it's like to live like this.







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