The latest episode in our Resilience Unravelled series has now been released, Resilience Unravelled – Schizophrenia recovery. Getting back to reality.
In this episode, Dr. Russell Thackeray talks to Bill McPhee. Bill is based in Niagara Falls, Canada and was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1987. He was hospitalised six times, lived in three group homes and attempted suicide. After five years going through a deep depression, the right medication and support from family and friends helped him get his life back.
When he was 24, Bill was working as a diver when he started having illusions, paranoia and depression. He was then diagnosed with schizophrenia. Bill’s mother had suffered from mental illness but that did not make his own diagnosis any easier. Schizophrenia can have three components. It can be genetic and run in families but it also needs a stressor or something that triggers it and a chemical imbalance in brain. You can have two of the three and not be affected. Studies actually show that in twins one can get it whilst the other doesn’t.
The meaning of Schizophrenia is being split from reality or being out of reality. Bill feels that to get back into reality and start schizophrenia recovery medication is needed. It’s also important to work on psychosocial skills and to develop friendships and talents. When you’re disconnected from reality and from life you don’t have many friends so become lonely, isolated and don’t participate. Working on these strategies and building your life back are part of the road to recovery. You need to keep occupied and have things to look forward to – it’s about having a life.
The illness has both positive and negative symptoms which are things that are added to, or lacking from, your personality. It’s thought that Schizophrenia affects 1 in a 100 people and that 50% of them will try suicide with 10% succeeding. It can present at an early age, generally between 15 and 25 and it affects women a little later. Onset can be acute or slow.
Some people will be able to come off medication but this is quite rare. Most people will have to take medication for the rest of their lives. There are some side effects such as being very tired and lethargic but there are a number of different medications so its a case of finding the one that works best. Bill finds to retain a good quality of life he has to take medication but 80% of people stop taking their medication and then relapse.
In 1994 Bill started the mental health magazine SZ which he ran for 23 years. Now semi-retired, he runs a weekly Facebook Group for parents of mentally ill children. In 2014, he released his memoir, To Cry a Dry Tear that takes you through his life and his journey from severe mental illness to full recovery and a meaningful life. He shares many of his original nursing notes, as well as his psychiatrist notes and treatment regime so it gives the reader an understanding of what goes on in the mind of someone who is out of reality.
You can get in touch with Bill at https://billmacphee.ca/
You can listen to the podcast in full and find out further information about Bill here.
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