As I See It: Twenty-One Years Wasted
(Column: Editor-At-Large: As I See It)
I thought I was in recovery from mental illness. After all I could gladly and proudly say I was hospital-free for twenty-one continuous years. I took my pills, saw my shrink and therapist, went to a self-help group and had friends for added support. I even maintained a relationship and an eventual marriage for twenty-five years. All seemed well, but was it? I now see cracks in my veneer of mental health.
I was coasting along with my supposed mental health without real change from within, but I functioned. The pills and my wife Reta were the primary source of help. The rest came along for the ride so to speak.
Why do I say the above? When my Reta died four years ago, the largest part of my support system ended. Between my meds and Reta, I stayed out of hospitals. That is how I see it. I finally took my pills daily after being non-compliant off and on for twenty years.
Reta gave me her love, hope, warmth and caring ways. I took my meds because of her. I didn't want to hurt her with my outrageous behavior and visits to see me in the hospital. With Reta's support I became an advocate for the mentally ill or so I thought. Largely that was an illusion I projected onto myself. I fed on this belief. Yet I still write articles, speak to consumers and college students on recovery.
Life can take on a momentum of its own. You go from activity to activity on a daily basis without really thinking, so time passes quickly. I did have potential years ago, but I have let life slip by. I will admit that I am totally pessimistic.
Some would say I am a success as I am a speaker, writer and chairperson of a mental health non-profit corporation. "Not bad," most people would say. However, I feel I took the easy way out on life. I went with the flow of a rudderless ship. I was not a captain at the helm. This thought saddens me now.
Recently, I was put on new medicines. I am now functioning on a higher level. Some of the fog around my head has lifted. After 21 years I am finally able to read again. Also, my mood level is not as extreme.
Maybe now I can obtain a dream of mine. I always wanted to be an urban planner. The idea has remained dormant for years. However, having a schizoaffective disorder, I was going to rebuild New York City in my image. The city would become livable. I had a vision of what could be, but wasn't. I wanted to make livable, affordable dwellings. I would return the streets to the people by eliminating cars on most streets and instead using trolley buses extensively on most avenues.
In reality I would have been satisfied working in an urban design firm. To see the design from its inception to the finished structure would have satisfied me. I somehow would have gone to a school like Cooper Union, but time passed me by. My idea now is to apply for a volunteer job after learning which architectural firms in the city do urban planning.
So, after twenty years of non-compliance and twenty-one years of taking pills, I can realize my dream to some degree.