Faces of Hope
Interviews and photographs by Katie Clark

Natalie

K: Tell me a little about yourself:
N: Um, I’m 38 and I live in Tallahassee and I’ve been married for 8 years.
K: When were you first diagnosed?
N: It’s a convoluted story, but I’ll try. Basically, what happened is my mom died and I got diagnosed the summer after she died in 2011. I was Baker Acted 3 times and was diagnosed then.
K: You were hospitalized.
N: Yes. I wasn’t there very long each time, only 72 hours. The 3rd time I was referred to my psychiatrist and then I got help from there.
K: How long before that had you been exhibiting symptoms?
N: Forever. It got really bad in my early 20s and things kind of stabilized a little bit around my mid to late 20s. I still had symptoms but not as damaging. You know how it to try to cover something up. That’s what I did. I had really high emotions, and that comes with being borderline.
K: So, what was your diagnosis?
N: Major depression, anxiety, and borderline personality.
K: Before you were diagnosed, how did your illness affect your life?
N: It was a mess. I had very high emotions. I engaged in self harm. I had a lot of risky behavior, including promiscuity. I think I at one point I had four guys in one day. When I was in college, I would skip classes to find guys. I didn’t like that I was alone. I figured it out afterwords, but at the time I just thought it was OK. I considered myself sex positive.
It affected my relationships. It was just really bad. I was very erratic. It was very difficult to regulate my emotions. So a minor thing would set me off. I don’t mean I would get violent or anything. I would have crying jags. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. It was pretty up and down.
K: Have you ever been discriminated against?
N: No, not really because no one knew. Outside my family, like at work, no one knew. For a long time I didn’t know. After I was diagnosed, I really wasn’t disclosing it or working that much anyway so it didn’t matter.
K: In what ways would you say that you are doing well despite your illness?
N: I think that I am doing much better now because I’m educated about my illness and I’ve had treatment. Well, I’m able to have stable moods, I’m more in control of my emotions; I’m able to regulate them more. I don’t engage in risky behavior anymore. I have better coping skills. I’m not saying that I’m perfect.
K: What helps you stay focused on recovery?
N: The DBSA (Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance) group that I attend every week. I can really be myself there. It’s alot easier to deal with my symptoms because I have people to talk to that understand. I also have my family and my husband. My husband is a mental health professional. He can say, “Maybe you need to see a therapist.”
K: Is there anything else you would want someone to know that is newly diagnosed with your illness?
N: The main thing to know is that it’s not the end of the world. You can have a normal life. There is nothing to stop you. My mom used to say that everyone has limitations, but there are ways around it. If you have a mental health diagnosis then you might need a modified way of life. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a life.

Namoje

K: What is your name?
N: Namoje
K: Tell me about yourself.
N: I’m a graduate of Florida State University. I’m from Orlando , FL; more specifically, Kissimmee AKA Disney World. I’m 22. I’m an Aquarius and a Gemini rising in May.
K: When were you first diagnosed?
N: I was diagnosed in the third grade, so when I was 8 years old. I was diagnosed with ADHD. And then when I was like 10, I was showing signs of depression.
K: Before you were diagnosed how did your illness affect your life?
N: I have multiple diagnosis. Before I was diagnosed with everything it was hard to concentrate. I experienced suicidality without understanding exactly it was. Just understanding that I didn’t want to exist. I didn’t realize what that actually meant. Just a longing to not be present in the world. Also, I spent a lot of my time before I was diagnosed in the background observing people. Kind of studying how they were humans and just mimicking that in hopes that I came of somewhat like everyone else. It didn’t go very well.
K: Have you ever been discriminated against due to your illness?
N: For sure. I also have borderline personality disorder. I was a sophomore in
college. Basically, I can’t submit this paper because I had been crying for days. I had not wanted to exist. I had not wanted to do anything. I couldn’t get out of bed. I had a professor tell me that those things were not an excuse. I was like, “Maybe everyone else isn’t like me.” So I got an F on that paper and I had to drop the class. It was just a moment in my life where I felt completely defeated.
K: In what ways would you say you are doing well despite your illness?
N: I’m still here. I made it to 22 this year. I never thought I would make it past 15… 18… 20. Success is that I graduated college and now I trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest ofmy life.
K: What helped you stay focused on recovery?
N: I think there’s this deep passion that there is something more to life than misery and pain and suffering. As easy as it would have been to end it all, it seemed easier to ask for help sometimes. I’m thankful for those few moments where I asked for help. I lucked out. People gave me resources and that worked out. I lucked out by finding someone, and then finding someone even better. Then I got into DBT group [Dialectical Behavior Therapy]. I think it was just a lot of work and a lot of times when I realized that it’s hard. It takes less energy to ask then go through with not a good thing.
K: What would you want to tell someone who is newly diagnosed with your illness?
N: If you have ADHD, BPD, Depression, Anxiety with obsessive compulsive tenancies, I would tell them that there’s hope despite what our media says, despite how a lot of people feel. You are not alone. And now that you have a diagnosis, things can only get better from here.
K: Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
N: I feel like there is a BPD [Borderline Personality Disorder] trope that I’m a crazy killer and I’m going to stalk you and murder you and get out of hand and all these other things. I wish people would actually take the time and listen to the merit of the people with my disorder instead of consuming pop culture romanticized version of my disorder. Which is more harmful a lot more than it is helpful.

Sarah

K: Say your name
S: Sarah
K: Tell me a little about yourself
S: I am 31. I am a single mom to a 6 1/2 year old and I live in Tallahassee, FL. I’ve been a nurse for 3 years and that’s me.
K: When were you first diagnosed?
S: When I was first diagnosed, they said I had bipolar when I was 19 or 20. But then they found out I had a thyroid problem and they attributed it to that. I didn’t really look into it further. So, I was probably 28 and told that I might have borderline personality disorder with anxiety.
K: Before you were diagnosed, how did your illness affect your life?
S: I wanted to kill myself a lot. I felt very isolated. I had social interaction issues. Making new friends was uncomfortable. But at the same time, I was loud and outgoing but that just one of the symptoms. You are scared of people but at the same time you try to overcompensate.
K: Have you ever been discriminated against due to your illness?
S: I’m really lucky at the job I’m at now I have disability so if I have an emergency [therapy] session they give me time off for that. I can go see my psychiatrist. I feel like my friends didn’t understand for a while, but talking to them made me realize that they have problems too. the more I talked about the more I realized that I wasn’t alone. So, I didn’t really see a whole lot of discrimination.
K: In what ways would you say you are doing well in spite of the illness?
S: I wake up every day. I’ve been going to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for about a year. It gave me a lot of skills. And now that I’m on the right medications I can utilize those skills to offset altered thought processes that I have. That combination helps a lot with being able to stay present and realize that everybody doesn’t hate me.
K: What helps you stay well in recovery?
S: My daughter, probably is like the number one thing. If it wasn’t for her I probably wouldn’t be doing a whole lot for myself. But I have to be better for her and be a good example for her. I have to watch my responses and reactions to things.
K: Is there anything else you want people to know?
S: I want people to know that it takes a lot of work to get here, but it’s totally worth it. That you are not alone. That there is no normal; everybody has to go through stuff. It’s totally worth doing whatever you have to do to get better.

Josie

K: What is your name?
J: Josie
K: Tell me a little about yourself
J: I am a librarian and I mostly do technical stuff and marketing for state library of Florida. I am a DJ with WFSU student radio station. I have a show every Sunday Morning with a lot of different kinds of music. I got married last year. I am transgender and have been in the process of transitioning for a while. I’ve been on hormone replacement since November of last year. It’s been a positive helpful thing in my life. I feel better about myself and who I am. Some of my mental distress I was experiencing was because of trying to force myself to live as a cisman. Finding that unpleasant and low level stressing me out all the time. I have known [I was trans] since I was 14. The dysphoria that I was experiencing got really bad as I was going through puberty. I thought that if I could live like this, if it doesn’t make me hate myself so much that I want to die, I guess I’ll be ok.
K: What is your diagnosis and when were you first diagnosed?
J: I’ve gotten a lot of diagnoses through the years. Some of them less accurate than others. My current one that has been longstanding is bipolar disorder and ADHD. I was first diagnosed as a kid, like really really young- 1st grade. I was sent to a number of different programs in school. First it was EH [Emotionally
handicapped]. This was special education for kids with behavioral problems. Though out my childhood and teens I was put on medication after medication after medication and none of them really helped. I remember that I was terrified for a lot of the time. I was really scared. I would act out because I was scared and didn’t know how to verbalize how I was feeling. One of the weirdest triggers that I’ve encountered was that I watched a scene from a Superman movie, Man of Steele, where Clark Kent was in elementary school and started seeing everyone from the inside with his Xray vision. He was yelling and crying because no one else knew what he was going through because they couldn’t see what he could see. I started crying because this is so close to what I experienced as a child. I was dragged out of class kicking and screaming and completely overwhelmed and no way of explaining it.
I took a medication in middle school that made me constantly sick. And I developed a reputation in high school for being a stoner, but it was really just my meds. My parents finally took me out of public school and placed me in a private school. It was horrible and abusive. I was really badly mistreated. I was handcuffed and locked in a closet. I’m not officially diagnosed with PTSD, but it was traumatizing.
The first time I tried to kill myself was 8 years old. I layed down in the railroad tracks and hoped a train or car would hit me.
K: In what ways would you say you are doing well in spite of your mental illness?
J: I have a pretty good job. I started therapy again last year. That’s been extremely helpful, but it’s frustrating because it’s hard to get insurance to pay for it. I take intunive for ADHD and it had been helpful somewhat. None of the medications that I’ve been on have ever been more than somewhat helpful. I am really good at my job. I’m in a happy relationship. It is difficult sometimes with us having different mental illnesses. But we’ve been together almost six years now. I’ve started getting a good network of friends here in Tallahassee.
K: What helps you stay focused on recovery?
J: One thing that helps me is that I feel that I have to prove the people who doubt me wrong. I know that I have people who care about me, even when it doesn’t feel like it. They are there and will tell me. That is so valuable. I have a caring family. My wife and I are really there for each other.
K: What would tell someone that is just diagnosed with bipolar and depression; what you are going through right now?
J: There are absolutely people who care about you. You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Accountability is important. However, mental illness isn’t an excuse for being a bad person. It doesn’t mean that you are one. You should be able to forgive yourself for not being neurotypical. You shouldn’t hold it against yourself for not being healthy; you should work towards being there. And you might never quite make it. I don’t think I’ll ever be “there;” mental illness will affect my life in one way or another. And that’s ok. It’s ok if sometimes you are still not well.

Barry

K: What is your name?
B: Barry
K: Tell me a little about yourself
B: I am a successful lawyer. However, I just recently retired.
K: When were you first diagnosed?
B: I was diagnosed around April 2010. I was in such denial about it that I went undiagnosed for many years. When I was diagnosed, I ignored the diagnosis. I refused to accept that I was ill. It was not part of me, it was someone else. And then, I did not start getting well until I embraced it, I embraced it fully. I had anasnosia. Anosognosia, also called “lack of insight,” is a symptom of severe mental illness experienced by some that impairs a person’s ability to understand and perceive his or her illness. It is the single largest reason why people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder refuse medications or do not seek treatment. K: Do you characterize your illness as a gift?
B: No, it’s like being able to stay up all times of night; the ability to jump buildings with a single bound.
K: How has your illness affected your life?
B: I first realized that it negatively impacted my life is when I couldn’t get term life insurance. I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m being discriminated against. It was the first time I really put two and two together.
K: Does it impact your daily functioning?
B: Not anymore because this is a happy boy who stays on his meds.
K: How are you successful in spite of your illness?
B: I can anything that I want to do. I am capable of doing anything. I could do a lot more if people wouldn’t discriminate against me.
K: Is there anything else you want people to know about living with bipolar disorder?
B: Get your sleep, get your sleep I say!

Tere

K: Tell me a little about yourself.
T: I’m Tere and I’m 58. I’ve survived domestic violence, sexual assault, living with mental illness, I have 4 kids. I’ve been a single mom. I’m currently working as an advocate specialist for disability rights Florida and I love that job.
K: When were you first diagnosed?
T: Oh golly. I was undiagnosed for almost 20 years but it was 2004 that I got my diagnosis.
K: What was your diagnoses?
T: Bipolar Disorder
K: Before your diagnosis, how did your mental illness affect your life?
T: Oh my gosh. I was like in a manic state all of the time. I did like the productivity when I didn’t tip over into the extreme and spend all my money and make really stupid decisions; impulsive actions, but the productivity part was awesome.
K: Have you ever been discriminated against due to your illness?
T: I’ve been pretty open about it so I haven’t lost a job or been called out or any of that. Although I think people tend to dismiss some of my concerns because they think I’m crazy. But I haven’t been attacked, but many people I know have so I’ve been very lucky.
K: What ways would you say you are doing well despite the illness?
T: I have managed to not alienate my family or my friends, well many of my core friends. I have managed to hold onto a job even when sometimes I can’t get up out of bed. I do like feeling things. I am not as heavily medicated now as I was in the past. I like to be able to feel things instead of just be level. So, I’m enjoying that.
K: What helps you stay focused on Recovery?
T: Smoking, which I’m quitting this month. My family and responsibilities, although that gets kind of hard. But I like my mind, so I want to keep living in a healthy and productive manner if I can.
K: What would you tell someone that was just diagnosed with your disorder?
T: Oh, hang in there. We’re working really hard to erase the stigma about it. And you have no idea how many other people have the same diagnosis as you do. Initially, be patient. If you are doing meds, it’s trial and error. Try to remain compliant. Build up a network of friends who won’t tell you just shake it off, suck it up, get up out of bed. Who will come to your house and clean it because you absolutely can’t. Who will come and entertain your kids so you can lay in your bed and plant corn on your farm app because that’s all you can do today. That’s your best hope of getting though on your day to day.
K: Anything else you want people to know about you?
T: I’m hopeful always. Everyday there’s ups and downs but I try to recognize when there’s a joyful moment and hold onto that.

Danielle

K:What is your name?
S: Danielle
K: Tell me a little about yourself.
S: I am 28 years old and I recently moved to Tallahassee. I have two children; 9 and 6 yr old. I’m diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And I currently work insurance.
K: When were you first diagnosed?
S: I was first diagnosed November 2017, pretty recently.
K: Is it bipolar 1 or 2?
S: To be honest, it’s bipolar tendencies. My mania and depression aren’t so severe.
K: Before you were diagnosed, how did your illness affect your life?
S: I could tell the there was something wrong. There would be days that I couldn’t function; I couldn’t get out of bed. I would get agitated at everything. It took a toll on my marriage. People kept asking me why I was acting this way; why I couldn’t stop. They said that I was acting crazy.
K: Have you ever been discriminated against due to your illness?
S: My family. When I first really got help was a year ago. A lot of my family thought I was doing it just to get attention. Still to this day, they don’t talk about it, they don’t bring it up. They still say that I just want attention that I’ve conjured up this thing in my head. It’s not fun. I just don’t talk to them about it. K: In what ways would you say you are doing well despite your illness?
S: Despite the illness, I can now use coping mechanisms where I say that I need to do this in order to be well today. I make smaller goals, more realistic goals so I won’t stay in the valley of depression because I not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
K: What helps you stay focused on recovery?
S: My children. Even though I have this illness I want them to know that Mommy’s ok. To know that I try. And some days are worse than others. I push through no matter what because I want them to have the best childhood that they can have.
Also, Jiu Jitsu. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu helped me by teaching me how to fight my demons. It taught me to become more aware of my body and my mind and having them work together. It gave me confidence. It helps me with problem solving. I’ve learned self defense. It has also taught me to be more conscious of what goes into my body.
K: What would tell someone that was just diagnosed with bipolar today?
S: Don’t give up. Because even though it is an illness there is help out there. Even though you might feel worthless or taking your own life, there’s hope.

About the image: I feel like it represents my struggle with my illness. Half of me is in the light while the other half is in the dark.

Jazlyn

K: What is your name?
J: Jazlyn
K: Tell me a little about yourself.
J: I am bubbly and peachy but I’m also really cold and distant at the same time. It depends on when you get me.
K: When were you first diagnosed?
J: Formally diagnosed, 17 years old, 5 years ago.
K: What was your diagnosis?
J: Anxiety and Depression
K: Before you were diagnosed, how did your illness affect your life?
J: [suicidal] ideations, self harm, antisocial tendencies even while trying to be social. I dissociate and have selective mutism; I’m working on that.
K: Have you ever been discriminated against due to your illness?
J: Yes. Most people when it comes to mental health don’t recognize it. Most of my physical ailments are caused by my mental illness. A lot of people will say that they get what depression is and say that it’s not that serious that I don’t need to be sad all the time. That’s not what depression is. You have no idea if you think depression is just being sad all the time. Same with anxiety. People are like oh that’s not serious. Ok, but have you ever stayed up all night and put all your possessions on your body because you didn’t know whether you would be homeless the next day? What you normally do in this situation is make lists and plan.
K: What way would you say that you are doing well despite your illness?
J: I’ve always been proactive about my mental health even without therapy. I’ve always been studying the DSM to understand the various illnesses and symptoms because I didn’t get to go to therapy as a kid but I knew that something just wasn’t right in my head. As a result I tried to recognize symptoms in myself so that I could learn how to cope with them and adapt even though no one was helping me with that. So, now I’m trying to go back to therapy and trying to find a therapist specifically for my more in depth issues. I’m getting a better hold on that.
K: What helps you stay focused on recovery?
J: My dreams because I dream all day every day I’m a constant day dreamer and dream weaver. I love to hear my friends and other people’s dreams. If I can incorporated it or just keep it saved up here then when something comes along that reminds me of them I going to let them know so they can reach their dreams too.
K: What would you tell someone who was newly diagnosed with your diagnosis?
J: It’s not as scary as it seems. My diagnosis is actually dissociative identity disorder. It’s got a lot of bad stigma. Mine comes from second hand trauma rather than direct trauma. For me it’s like having a family that you never got to have because I was an only child and alone all the time. So, I never realized that I had all these friends until recently, but it definitely kept me from feeling so lonely. So once you grasp that, you realize that the voices aren’t all that scary.
K: Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
J: I always try to be honest but I always try to blend in so people can come to me if they need me.

Jessica

K: Tell me your name.
J: Jessica
K: Tell me a little about yourself.
J: I’m a 36 yr old homeschooling Mom of 2. I am a sexual violence survivor. I’m doing my best living with bipolar and anxiety and working full time.
K: When were you first diagnosed?
J: When I was 16.
K: How were you diagnosed?
J: I was put into TMH Behavior health center voluntarily after a suicide attempt on my 16th birthday
K: What was your diagnosis?
J: Bipolar 1, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, and major insomnia.
K: Before you were diagnosed, how did your illness affect your life?
J: I was a cutter or self abuser from 11-16 at least daily. I was constantly swinging from highs and lows and had no idea why. I was feeling guilty from feeling depressed and had no idea. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere.
K: Have you ever been discriminated against due to your illness?
J: Yes. If I’m forthcoming with jobs, it will make it very difficult. Sometime with coworkers. Maybe not trusted to be able to do the full and complete task because they don’t think your up to it.
K: In what ways would you say you are doing well despite the illness?
J: I am in therapy. I have learned how to pay attention so that when I’m cycling I can catch it before I’m just fully one way or the other. I’ve developed some coping strategies. I am on medication and I try to when I’ve feeling up to it be an advocate for those of us with mental illness.
K: What helps you stay focused on recovery?
J: My children. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know.
K: Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
J: Through it all and the eating disorders that have come along with the other diagnoses; looking back 20 years I never would have thought I would know people like Katie and other people in my circle that accept me. And I find that fascinating. And I’m very grateful for where I am today.

Jim

K: Tell me about yourself.
J: My name is Jim, and I’ve been in Tallahassee since 1988 started out at FSU. I spent my career at FSU; I’m retired from the FSU police department in 2018. Now I’m a full time artist.
K: When were you first diagnosed.
J: I was actually diagnosed in 2010 with major depressive disorder. But I think looking back on symptoms, I probably had it since I was 16.
K: Before you were diagnosed, how did your illness affect your life?
J: Looking back on it, I started having low periods. Periods where I felt isolated and I felt cut off emotionally. It started out fairly short term at first, but those periods got longer and deeper over time when I was untreated. At work I was doing ok, but I would get home and be alone with my thoughts. I wasn’t distracted by having a job to do.
K: Have you ever been discriminated against due to your illness?
J: Not directly that I know of. Maybe people kind of talk behind my back a little bit, but I don’t know. I’ve actually been very lucky that at my workplace, working at FSU, the culture there is very supportive. My boss was very supportive, especially in 2010 when I told him what was going on. I was very lucky when I know a lot of other people were not. Especially in my industry, in law enforcement. There are a lot of people who are discriminated against.
K: In what ways are you doing well despite your illness?
J: I have it under control and I have a good support system. Technically, right now, my depression is in remission. I also draw upon it for my creativity as well. It’s not something I’d wish on anyone, but it’s part of what makes me unique. I’ve learned to live with it. A lot of people call depression the black dog. Is it a little black dog or a great big black dog; right now it’s just a little black dog.
K: What helps you stay focused on recovery?
J: Really my art. My art is very positive. I get a certain sense of happiness and structure out of it. And structure is important when you have depression. Having structure, having a job or task to do helps you with depression. Art is very much that. I know when I’m doing my paintings, I’m concentrating on staying inside the lines and not messing it up and portraying what I want to get across. So that focuses me on something other than I might be feeling that day. Medication helps too.
K: Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
J: One of the things I want people to know about me is that I learned that you can feel
better. Too many times people portray a mental illness as a sentence for life and you are going to be hobbled and you are not going to be able to pursue your dreams. One of the things I learned is that you can feel better, you can function, you can succeed with the right support system and the right personal motivation and support to do so. I’ve been able to survive and they can as well. It’s not that there hasn’t been a struggle. I’ve just been able to overcome. You learn to live with it.

Louise

K: What is your name?
L: Louise
K: In what ways would you say you are doing well despite the illness?
L: I am doing well because I do try see the positive. This is the way my father gets by with living with a wife with dementia. Do you remember what I said?
K: No, I’m sorry I do not.
L: It’s like I get older my memory jumps off a cliff. I think that’s normal aging.
K: What helps you stay focused on recovery?
L: My husband and my cat. I love my cat, she’s like my kid. My husband takes care of himself which motivates me to take care of myself. My religion- the goddess that I’ve been praying to- Isis. She and others in the pantheon always tell me to find my inner strength. I know that if I don’t have the strength, they will be there for me.
K: How does your illness affect your everyday life?
L: I don’t know what to expect day to day. Writing about it helps. I have a diary that I’ve kept for 39 years. It helps focus my thoughts and get things out; I can move on after all. I do the best I can one day at a time.
K: What would you tell someone just diagnosed with depression?
L: Take advantage of the resources out there. Go see a psychologist if you need it. Take the medications that they proscribe to you. It’s not a bad thing. There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness. Take advantage of what’s out there and do your best to get better.

Victoria

K: What is your name?
V: Victoria
K: Tell me a little about yourself
V: I’m 56, I’m a grandmother of 4 granddaughters and I enjoy art. I enjoy reading. I’m trying to learn to play the ukulele. I’ve been married to my current husband for 11 years.
K: When were you first diagnosed?
V: Depression when I was a child, I was in counseling. As an adult I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It’s been about 7 years now. I was in my late 40s. They changed my diagnosis to schizoaffective with major depression which is what I had to deal with as a child. I also am living with PTSD and anxiety.
K: Before you were diagnosed, how did your illness affect your life?
V: I was very paranoid and there were things going on that I didn’t understand and now I realize that it was because of the paranoia. It wasn’t true. At the time it seemed very true. I used to do things like suddenly go away; I would just disappear because I was so afraid. It really impacted my relationship with my husband. Things that I thought were real weren’t real, and I would argue with him about that. It affected my sleep or my inability to sleep because I was afraid all the time.
K: Have you ever been discriminated against due to your illness?
V: I lost a job. A time that I was hospitalized when they diagnosed me as schizophrenic, I lost my job while I was in the hospital. When I got out my supervisor asked for something from the hospital saying that I had been in the hospital and the only thing I had was a letterhead that said behavioral health TMH. Up until that point he was ok with me being in the hospital, but when she realized it was behavioral health the day after I got back she dismissed me.
K: In what ways would you say you are doing well despite your illness?
V: Well, I take my medication. The paranoia is very minimal nowadays. I do still have some problems with hallucinations. I am able to understand that they are hallucinations. I have a good relationship with my husband. I am still creative despite my medicine. I am enjoying my granddaughters.
K: What helps you stay focused on recovery?
V: More than anything remembering how bad it used to be. How scary it used to be. When every I’m tempted to not take my medication because it gets old really old every night and all the pills that I have to choke down, I remember how it used to be before medication, how afraid I always was and how scared I always was and my inability to concentrate on anything meaningful. So I keep on taking my medicine.
K: What would you tell someone who is newly diagnosed with your diagnosis?
V: It does get better. If and when they can find the right cocktail of medication and therapy, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as far as not being so afraid and being able to distinguish reality from hallucinations and delusions.
K: Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
V: I have a lot more going on other than the fact I have a diagnosis. I have something meaningful to contribute to the community and my family.

Jacob

K: What is your name
J: My name is Jacob.
K: Tell me a little about yourself
J: I was born in Miami, FL and then moved to Duram, NC and from Duram NC to Silver Springs, MD, and then to Arlington, Virginia, and then to Fort Washington, MD. I was raised primarily in the DC metropolitan area. Although, I’ve been in Tallahassee for 17 years, it seems like it was just yesterday. But 2003 is when I moved here. So, now I guess I’m a native Tallahassean.
K: When were you first diagnosed?
J: I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia at 16, and I had not tried any illicit drugs or anything.
K: Before you were diagnosed, how did your illness affect your life?
J: Before I was diagnosed, I knew that I needed help because my thoughts were extremely disorganized. And I told my mother that I couldn’t think straight, I needed help and I was put on Rispordol and the Rispordol further obscured my thinking. The Rispordol didn’t help me so I stopped taking it. Until I had my 2nd psychotic break at 19.
K: Have you ever been discriminated against due to your illness?
J: I would like to say that I have not been discriminated against because I work with vocational rehab and I work with Goodwill who work with people who have disabilities. I haven’t worked in a place where I’ve had to disclose my illness to people who might be judgmental and fire as a result of that. Thank goodness.
K: In what ways would you say you are doing well despite your illness?
J: I’m making new friends. I’m make art. I’m pursuing a certified peer to peer specialist certificate from the FL Certification board. I work with NAMI and I intend to volunteer a significant amount of time at the Kearney Center to get my 500 hours of community service which is required for the peer to peer certificate.
K: What helps you stay focused on recovery?
J: Coming to terms that I am sick. A lot of my family used to tell me that I wasn’t sick, but after I had my 3rd psychotic break, I finally admitted to myself that I have psychoaffective disorder or schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and the psychotic breaks were evidence that I had the disorder was I was crazy, but now I realize that I am mentally ill and having the psychotic breaks affirmed that I am mentally ill.
K: What would you tell someone who was just diagnosed with your diagnosis?
J: I would tell them that they may have to experiment with a cocktail of medications. And don’t ask other people how the medications worked for them because you have your own body chemistry. I don’t like it when people ask me how medication works for me because your body chemistry is totally different and you need the right cocktail of medications for yourself. And just because your doctor says it’s right doesn’t mean it’s right for you. If you still feel really bad, tell your doctor that it isn’t improving your thinking. Be candid with your doctor, and if your doctor doesn’t understand; change doctors. Do whatever it takes to make your thinking more clear. And if the medication doesn’t help you do that, tell your doctor and don’t take the medication.

Solana

K: Tell me your name.
S: Solana
K:Tell me about yourself.
W: 31 years young. Born and raised here in Tallahassee. I just went back to college and started a new job. I’m also in recovery, which are alot of changes for the good. It’s been a long road.
K: When were you first diagnosed?
S: I believe I was 12 or 14. I believe I was Baker acted for the first time. No believe I was first diagnosed with depression, later on they added on major depressive disorder and Bipolar 2 K: Before you were diagnosed, how did your illness affect your life?
S: Even after I received my diagnosis, I wasn’t receiving the correct treatment. I never had social anxiety, but I would have panic attacks related to ptsd which would prevent me from going to work or ruin relationships.
K: Have you ever been discriminated against due to your mental illness?
S: Yeah, my appearance, my scars. Based on the words bipolar they think I’m automatically crazy.
K: Is there any way you are doing well despite your illness?
S: For one, I’m still alive; that’s a big one. I feel like dying is certainly a lot easier than living no matter the illness. I’m still here and trying to get my life under control.
K:What helps you stay focused on recovery?
S: Journaling; I write all day every day. Photography, my journals are full of photos and art. I do have people I can talk to. I have a psychiatrist and I belong to a fellowship in which I can be open. Medication has been in my life and out and in. There’s a lot of them that I was put on that I decided to stop. It’s been a long process to get sober and stay sober so I can learn my own mind. I would say writing is my biggest thing. It’s the only way I know how to pray.
K: What would you tell someone newly diagnosed with your disorder?
S: Even rock bottom can have a basement but the wound is where the light enters you. I would emphasis that the newly diagnosed is not this broken thing. Everybody’s got problems; there are other people out there just like you. You are not unique; you are not alone.
K: Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
S: My genes are multifaceted. I’m not a survivor of just one thing.

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