My Broken Mind, Part II: Mending

By Henry Boy Jenkins

In my last blog I was questioning what appeared to be an uptick in my symptoms. I was concerned about residual schizophrenia or worse, a relapse. After visiting with my psychiatrist and having an open and frank discussion with him, I came away with a clearer understanding of what’s going on, what the meds can and can’t do, and a glimpse into my future for good measure. A year with the chems as a part of my treatment plan, and I’m still a newbie. Better to be fresh and learning than cynical and jaded. I’m in this for the long haul. I like being able to take care of myself.

The good news is that my dosages stay the same, which is fine by me. I really didn’t want to increase them. Sometimes my body and brain feel a tad slogged down by the medications. I enjoy the days when I don’t notice them working. There’s a sense of freedom there. An awareness. Much preferred over the clouded days filled with whispers, threats, and paranoia. Replacing that lonely world with one filled with hope is all new to me as of this past year, and I am grateful for it. I just had no clue that things could be better. I thought that I would be white-knuckling it through episode after episode for the rest of my life, wearing out friendships and losing reality.

While I waited for my bus to the clinic I watched a man come up the sidewalk, muttering—a disheveled, broken person, seemingly lost in conversation with no one but himself. He dug through the trash can and found a half empty coffee cup, popped the lid, and sat down on the park bench to drink it, legs crossed, pinkie up, like a real gentleman. He spied a cigarette butt near his feet, picked it up, and lit it. He continued talking and gesturing to his imaginary friend until his coffee break was over. He stubbed out his smoke and wandered up the street.

I was that man once not long ago. I talked with invisible guests. I dug through the garbage. I affected a life that I thought reflected the trappings of a normal person. Not to the degree that this morning’s traveller exhibited, or so I tell myself, but kindred spirits nonetheless. Same coin, different sides of the street. One stumbling through psychosis, the other riding towards hope. In my past he would have been a projection of myself, a spirit, a composite of all of my difficulties cobbled together to form an entity I could hang a notion on when the hallucinations started. Today, my heart just went out to him. I knew the world he was in, I share that world with him. My prayer was that he could find his way out from under and seek the kind of help that I’m currently receiving.

The medications help to manage my delusions and hallucinations, aid in organizing my scattered thoughts, and keep a lid on my agitation. Manage, not eliminate. The symptoms will always be there behind the meds. When they’re working I won’t experience the paranoid delusions, I won’t hear the voices, I won’t misinterpret reality. Under stress, the symptoms may leak through briefly. I have my therapist, my psychiatrist, and my case manager to talk about these upticks with when they occur, just as I used to before medication. I have my two best friends to check in with. Keeping my support network close and informed is to my advantage.

What the medicine won’t help with is my reduced affect, alogia, or avolition. The negative symptoms are here to stay, but with the positive symptoms in check they’re easier to manage. I don’t feel as overwhelmed. I can keep things in perspective. I’m not conversing in disorganized speech. I’m a little slow on the uptake, but not so much that I can’t stay in the conversation. Get me talking and I’m good to go. I can make sense. I can get past my shyness. I can contribute to the stream of life. Because I’m not battling demons. Literally. They aren’t there on those days when the medicine and my body are in harmony.

So it’s a matter of dealing with schizophrenia through this treatment plan of drugs and talk therapy, of maintaining a healthy diet and exercise, and of staying plugged in to the things that bring me joy. I like to watch the Marvel superhero movies. I love a good romantic comedy. I enjoy the occasional coffee date, as well as my weekly breakfasts out with friends.

I’m coming to terms with my mental illness, step by step. My fractured mind will always be so, and I understand that now. The choice to be gentle with it, to nurture it and treat it with respect, is what I can do if I want a new normal that works for me.

9 responses to “My Broken Mind, Part II: Mending”

  1. Dan says:

    Henry, a very nice piece, well written story and enjoyed hearing about your day-in-the-life reality. I have witnessed some of your bad days along with many of your good days and you are a inspiration to many who know you. Keep up the good work! Catch up with you down the road…….

    • Henry Boy says:

      Thanks, Dan. I’ve been trying to write the blog with a nod to the day-in-the-life reality since I got out of the hospital last year, and it seems to be working. The idea was to keep as current as I could while sharing my experience and hope. From your comment, it sounds like the experiment works. Cheers!

  2. Carol S says:

    Henry, my hero ♡ My prayers are for your, and my chiĺd. What ever works ♡

  3. Jane W says:

    So nice to read of a person with your diagnosis doing the things necessary to feel the hope and enjoy the reality. It isn’t easy to deal with mental illness (mine is Bipolar Disorder) and its constancy, and I’ve made my share of poor choices, but life is better, oh so much better, with a psychiatrist, a therapist, the meds, and a few friends for the more stressful days. Best wishes to you.

    • Henry Boy says:

      Thank you for your comment, Jane. You’re right that life is better with a good, trusted team at your side, and a solid treatment plan to follow. My best to you, too.

  4. smileandrelax says:

    Hey, Henry. I recently went through something similar but because I’ve been in recovery for thirty years, its intensity was much less severe. My therapist considered me to be feeling anxious. She prescribed an anti anxiety medication. I used it exactly as prescribed. What’s interesting is how effective this process was; ultimately a huge amount of repressed memory resurfaced for good. And these are happy memories of happy times shared with a friend while a tenth grader. However, the loss of focus I experienced while going through this anxiety also meant I needed a leave of absence from my job as an insurance agent in the largest and most successful agency in my county. So… A mixed bag. I am glad and thankful to have regained memories. So is my friend as he has been sad all these years that I had forgotten all those good times 36 years ago when we first met. But now I have to await an opening to return to the insurance agency.

    • Henry Boy says:

      Wow, that IS a mixed bag! I’m glad for you that your repressed memories resurfaced and that you and your friend could connect on that level. I only received my diagnosis seven years ago, although I’d been in therapy for three-and-a-half years prior. A lot of this territory is new to me still. Thankfully I passed through the gauntlet of disbelief and distrust early on and have opened myself up to the many possibilities of recovery since. It’s a brave new world, as you no doubt understand with your experience of many years. I appreciate your sharing, s&r. Thank you.

  5. smileandrelax says:

    Henry, a further note, and not a musical one, though it may leave some mental health care providers singing.

    Insurance companies use actuarial science and data sets to predict outcomes. Of course, no profit-margin or performance-driven agency would ever choose to employ someone who has once been diagnosed with schizophrenia, as I was, unless that agency knew specifically what chance I had to succeed both as an agent and as a human person. State Farm Insurance is perhaps the largest home insurer in the United States and its advice based on its statistical analysis was that I could do both.

    This is something I was repeatedly reminded to share in the appropriate forum so that others like myself could feel hopeful about their future.

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