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.

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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.