Persisting Even Though It’s Hard

Persisting in taking action will help you achieve your goals even though you’re going through a hard time.

You might not see the light at the end of the tunnel and that’s OK. Just keep taking action. The alternative is no option: giving up is not an option

Surviving a setback is easier when you have a goal to strive for: an image in your head of what your life looks like when you’ve arrived at the other side. Write down in a notebook where you want to be and what you want your life to look like in three years. Create a one-year goal, a two-year goal, and a three-year goal.

Often: it makes sense to write down your long-term goals as a guide. They’re not written in stone even though they’re written down. They can be changed or modified along the way. Yet having this clear vision gives your life a focus and purpose to look forward to when today isn’t so hot.

Have a long-term goal you can review every so often. Yet know that focusing on weekly goals and taking your life week-by-week can be the necessary and useful and positive solution when you’re going through a hard time.

I set weekly goals now that are simple and can be achieved step-by-step. Yet I also have goals I want to achieve in five years that are always floating around in my head.

Writing down your goals is the best option for reviewing them as often as you need to review them.

Make the goals SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-specific.

Yet also give yourself a generous time to complete certain goals instead of narrowly restricting yourself to thinking you have to solve things quickly.

“Quick” is often the antithesis of “Lasting.”

It takes time to create positive, lasting changes in your life.

Nothing succeeds like persistence.

I’ll end here by telling readers that persistence is simply putting one foot in front of the other to keep on walking.

It doesn’t even involve always having the faith that you’ll achieve your goal. It only involves continuing to take action even when you lose faith.

Action cures fear. Action leads to success. Hope coupled with action is the way to go.

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Having Joy and Satisfaction

It’s true that doing the things that give you joy and satisfaction can reduce the impact of your disability.

Too often, a person decides to do something because she’s convinced she wants to do it or she’s supposed to do it. This happened when I took my first full-time job in 1990 as an administrative assistant. I was female so decided to work in an office as an administrative assistant. No true career assessment was given to me to help me figure out what might be a better option.

In 1996, a chance meeting with a therapist turned my life around when he gave me vocational counseling and told me I’d make a good librarian. The health insurance only authorized five visits because I had a preexisting condition. He was a career counselor to high-level executives during the week and I met him on Saturdays when he was still doing therapy on the side.

My life wasn’t so hot from 1987 through spring 2000: the first 13 years of my recovery. I floundered through one job after another in the gray flannel insurance field. I kept being laid off and in June 1997 I followed through with my goal of going back to school even though I was unemployed.

A job might not give you total satisfaction so having a good life outside of work can tip the scales for your happiness.

I’m confident when I tell readers that taking any old job just to pay the bills isn’t the way to go when you have a mental illness. The good news is that if you take a detour or make a false start, you can change course at any time in your recovery or your life.

Those first seven years in the insurance field are long gone so you can see that your life isn’t over when you’re first diagnosed. And you CAN change your life and change the course of your life for the better at any point along the way.

Finding out what gives you joy and satisfaction is as simple as trying on or trying out new hobbies and activities to see which things boost your mood.

I’ll end here by reminding readers to remember what you liked to do as a kid so that you can find inspiration for your life’s work today. I was luckier than most because I knew by the time I was seven years old that I wanted to be a writer. I was also sketching and painting and reading books by the time I was seven.

Rewind your own life to see what used to give you joy and happiness as a young person. Rule out nothing even though you might be an adult now. You’re not ever too old to have fun doing what makes you happy.

Joy and satisfaction. Each of living with a diagnosis deserves to have joy and satisfaction in our lives.

It took me 13 years to find a good job. It might take you longer to find your life’s purpose.

Yet when you do I can guarantee you’ll be able to shift the needle to the left of the dial, achieve a calm balance, and have mostly good days instead of having only not-so-good days.

Daring to Dream

The third value I espouse as an author in my books is this:

Getting off the SSI dole can allow you to have a better life than you thought possible.

Today in 2015: permanent disability doesn’t have to be the norm once a person is diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar, or another mental illness.

Instead, most people diagnosed with schizophrenia can and do recover. Upwards of 85 percent of individuals with schizophrenia reach the stabilization, stable, and recovery phases of this illness. Fifteen percent have a refractory version.

The good news is that we don’t have to suffer in vain or suffer alone. With the right treatment and support, it’s easier to envision having the kind of normal life that a person who doesn’t have a mental illness lives.

The SYMS clothing store TV advertisements in the 1980s boasted: “An educated consumer is our best customer.”

Educated patients are the best customers of medical services as well. Research with due diligence the treatment options available to you.

I’ve been employed at full-time jobs since 1990. I’ve been a public service librarian for over 14 years now.

Your own idea of what you want to do with your life is all that matters. Collecting SSI or SSDI and working part-time at Rite Aid might be an option for some of us. Others might be able to go to college and get a degree and work at a professional job.

I take this imperative stance:

No one on earth has the right to judge another person for what we’re capable of doing or not doing.

I regret that most people buy into the myth that a person is only successful and worthy of praise if they are contributing to the economic stream in society by working at a prestigious full-time job like a JD.

Finding your niche might take time as it did for me. The first 13 years of my recovery from the diagnosis in 1987 to finding my library job in 2000 were not the best years of my life. Yet I prevailed, and that’s the secret: nothing succeeds like persistence.

It can take time and it often more so than not takes time to find your niche in the world.

Yet once you do you will be a lot happier and achieve emotional freedom and yes clarity of thought.

Collecting SSI the rest of your life is NOT a guaranteed outcome today in 2015.

You have options for what you can do and it all starts when you research the things you might want to do that you would like and be good at.

Giving up isn’t an option.

Numerous long-term studies of individuals with schizophrenia that review their recoveries at the 25-year mark or 30-year mark find that we are living in society with great success doing things that so-called normal people do with jobs, romantic partners, and satisfying lives.

Search for and seek out members of your treatment team who believe that recovery is possible and who wholeheartedly support you in your goal of living a full and robust life.

You don’t have to settle for less than full inclusion in society.

Next I’ll talk in here about the fourth value.

Taking Action to Achieve Goals

The second value my books offer is this:

Taking action to achieve your goals is possible with the right support and treatment.

As soon as I got out of the hospital the first time I had the goal of finding a full-time job and living on my own.

I was shunted into a community mental health center system ill-equipped to help a young person like me with so much potential. Yet I succeeded because I took action in the direction of my dream(s).

Being goal-directed might simply be the number-one predictor of how far a person will go in his or her life.

You might not be able to achieve what you set out to right away (or at all) yet continuing to take action will help you succeed.

The goal is to not let setbacks along the way defeat you. If you can’t do one thing, try to do another thing.

A real-life example: a woman I know couldn’t cope with the demands of a rigorous university where she would’ve gotten an occupational therapy degree. This didn’t render her life a dead-end. Her life wasn’t over and the possibilities for what she could do were still evident.

The woman years later did get a masters degree and is now quite successful in another career.

That’s why giving up on yourself isn’t an option.

The corollary to this value is another value: that being able to adapt to what happens in your life and to change course to do something unexpected that can be better: is a valuable mindset to have.

Rule out nothing.

Remember:

Nothing’s Impossible.

The word itself says: “I’m possible.”

Living a Full and Robust Life

Living a full and robust life is a goal that is within reach and I’ve seen this firsthand.

I also have friends who have been able to create better lives for themselves.

It takes courage to dare dream of having the kind of life you want. It takes a rudimentary belief in yourself to carry on in this goal when no one else believes in you.

For those of us who don’t have the competencies to rely on the “Dream. Believe. Achieve” mantra: social skills training and cognitive remediation (cognitive enhancement therapy) are two treatment options that can help individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia set and achieve goals.

You meet with a counselor to set goals and are given homework assignments to go out into places and develop your skills.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might be good as well to reduce the effect of any symptoms you have or to better improve your thinking to cope with your own roadblocks that hold you back.

I had 10 sessions of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the fall of 2007. This treatment greatly improved my ability to get through a hard time I was having.

I’ll end here by telling readers that you get to define the kind of life that you think is a full and robust life. The goal is not for everyone to rise up to become superstars or schizophrenia “celebrities.”

The goal is to do what makes you happy every day or as often as you can.

This might be paid work or it might be volunteer work either way.

It involves not comparing ourselves to others and seeking happiness inside ourselves not from other people’s praise.

A full and robust life might not come sooner to us yet we can go out and make it happen at any point in our recovery and our life.

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In the next blog entry I’ll talk about taking action to achieve your goals.

Value Statements

As a mental health activist, I have the vision to help peers lead full and robust lives.

I’ve written my self-help books and published my memoir, Left of the Dial, to show you how I was able to do this and that you can too.

In the coming weeks, I’ll devote blog entries to how these 10 values can help you succeed:

Living a full and robust life is a goal that is within reach.

Taking action to achieve your goals is possible with the right support and treatment.

Getting off the SSI dole can allow you to have a better life than you thought possible.

Doing the things that give you joy and satisfaction can reduce the impact of your disability.

Persisting in taking action will help you achieve your goals even though you’re going through a hard time.

Acting true to yourself is the best way to succeed in life.

Getting the right treatment right away can totally stop symptoms or minimize their effect on your life.

Creating an open, honest two-way dialogue with your treatment providers is the best way to get effective treatment.

Firing a doctor or other professional who practices “cookie cutter” or “one-size-fits-all” treatment might be necessary.

Researching available treatment options to discover what option is best for you at this time is your right and duty a a user of medical services.

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Each of the coming blog entries will focus on one of these values.

The Benefits of Early Intervention for Schizophrenia

At HealthCentral in March and April and in the coming months:

I’ve written and I’ll continue to write news articles about strategies for coping with symptoms.

I understand that a lot of people still have symptoms so I’ve decided to focus on strategies for managing symptoms.

My self-help books will give tactics for individuals living with mental illnesses who might have symptoms or might not have symptoms, either way.

Yet I don’t think a person should have to live with symptoms if they don’t have to.

It’s my contention that remission is a worthy goal to shoot for. And the quicker you get treated, it’s possible you’ll achieve remission quickly.

You shouldn’t have to suffer endlessly because treatment was delayed to the point where your symptoms are severe and won’t go away at all. You shouldn’t have to live with symptoms if you don’t have to.

The better able you are to minimize how symptoms disrupt your life: the easier it will be to function in the world, set goals and achieve them, and to have an easier time of it in your everyday life.

My platform is that getting the right treatment right away can result in a better outcome in life for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia,bipolar, and other mental illnesses.

I was hospitalized for a total of just under five weeks. It doesn’t upset me that I had a break. What I’m compelled to speak out against is cookie-cutter treatment of individuals with mental illnesses.

In 1987, when I was first diagnosed, I was shunted into a community mental health system ill-equipped to help a young person like me that had so much potential. I wrote about this before: how my quiet nature was seen as aberrant; how I had to fight to be taken seriously in my goal of living on my own and obtaining a full-time job.

No one-size-fits-all-treatment can exist. You need to talk to your treatment providers in an open, honest dialogue to arrive at the best treatment for your needs at this moment in time.

A friend with schizophrenia who rose up to be the CEO of corporations had a psychiatrist tell him, “Don’t make up a story about being a CEO to feel better about having schizophrenia.”

This was circa 2004: too late in the history of the recovery movement for a treatment provider to be reinforcing to his patient that there’s not much you can do if you have this illness.

I want to be a cheerleader for people diagnosed with mental illnesses, regardless of whether or not you have symptoms.

This friend I talk about heard voices for 10 years. His first doctor tried every new drug that came out until they found the medication that totally stopped the voices.

The goal is to not give up the fight to have a better life.

I’ll end here by telling readers you’re not doomed to a life of disability.

You can have a better life.