As I continue to mature and age along with my schizophrenia diagnosis, I think about how the passage of time impacts prognosis, and simultaneously on the successful symptom management of a chronic patient. On a personal level, I cannot help but think of how I got here in life.
Today, I am a licensed clinical social worker, author of three books and journal articles, a disability rights advocate, and representative of various intersections of the mental health community at various boards and committees in NYC. I also teach social work at Fordham University and am an avid mental health blogger. So, how did I get here from completely disordered and unable to care for myself?
To this day, I continue to believe that I could not have made it this far, so quickly without these folks. I have been so privileged. Without the help of my parents, family, and friends, my clinical picture would look radically different today, than if these natural supports had never been available in my life.
Without these critical lasting supports, people like my mother, father, and other long-standing friends prior to my illness and conversely during its tenure were the building blocks of my recovery.
The interesting notation on independence is that it is just the goal and not the means to recovery and healing. The mental health systems gestures, and truly emphasises the importance of living a full and independent life when carrying a mental health disorder. However, the missing element to theories around lasting independence and goal-directed philosophies continues to reject and ignore the importance of incorporating active support in our lives and not doing this all on our own.
My parents, Frank and Jane Guttman have travelled with me across the globe for my mental health needs. They have also conversely cleaned my bedding when I was so disordered I soiled the sheets due to catatonia and muscle stiffness. Without my parents’ support, my independence would be built on a swamp of uncertainty, trepidation, and fear of failure.
When the management of my schizophrenia symptoms improved years ago, and I was able to travel again, I was never shamed by my parents over the limitations I faced due to akathisia. So, when it came to acclimate to certain medications, in the early days, I was either too tired or too restless to sit down for extended periods of time.
When my family and I travelled to Europe a year after my initial break, in Italy, I was only able to savour pasta and pizza in short microdoses before I would have to get up and walk around. At least I was out there, though, trying to make it all work. From both parents and friends, I was getting encouragement that did not understand my restrictions as permanent, self-imposed, or limiting.
My stance on recovery is not unique in terms of mobilising support. However, the language and conceptualisation of the term: ‘too big to fail’ I am dispensing here highlights the most important reason support is so vital. In doing so, this term or stance evokes an old economic concept spearheaded by the Obama administration during the automotive bailout.
Well, while I’ve got symptoms which are problematic at times. These symptoms, whether rooted in mental health disorder or the needs of any given day call upon my network for collateral intervention aka the figurative bailout.
In doing so, at any given moment, I have access to resources and the support of a vast network for advice, guidance, and emotional validation, reassurance and counsel when I truly need it. Thus, there is no feat that is insurmountable in my path to healing because if I cannot fix it, I value my worth important enough to locate and identify a way forward. So, if you are not doing just that, heed my advice, and find a new path ahead with the right people vested in your recovery.
Image credit: Freepik
Max E. Guttman, LCSW is a psychotherapist and owner of Recovery Now, a mental health private practice in New York City.