N&N: Struggle and Recovery in Mental Illness
By Tarik Kiley
I am a mental health consumer. I want you to know that I have been struggling with schizophrenia since 1997 and have been in recovery since 2002.
I would like people to know that just because you have mental illness does not mean that you cannot reach your goals. I also would like to emphasize the point that people with mental illness can recover. Hopefully, when people are educated about mental illness, they can learn best practices to bring their family member(s) or friend(s) to recovery.
I was ill and in denial from 1997-2002. In 1997, I was attending UNC Charlotte and was hospitalized for the first time. After hospitalization, I returned to UNCC. I took the medication and when I started to feel better, I stopped taking it. This is the most important factor in denial: If you believe that you are not ill, then you will not take your medication regularly.
It is important for families to understand they must provide their mentally ill loved one with the positive reinforcement necessary to keep them on their medication. When your loved one is in denial, they may be unable to understand they are ill. Therefore, they need help, encouragement and support in assisting them to take their medication regularly.
For me, the worst part of mental illness was the stigma that I felt from others. When I became ill, many were not equipped to deal with my situation. Also, popular culture does not represent people with mental illness in a positive light. Many might remember the movie “Psycho.” Norman Bates was portrayed as a violent character, but most people with schizophrenia that I know are not violent at all.
Struggle: Root Causes
In order to overcome mental illness, each individual must understand what caused his or her mental illness. This is a highly personal journey and each case is uniquely different.
For me, I believe that my illness was caused by emotional distress and neglect from family. Every person is an expert on themselves and because of this "expertise of the self," people can find the root causes of their distress while looking inward.
The most potent, fundamental aspect of recovery is being loved and morally supported. When I felt love from others it helped me to achieve a positive state of mind. That positive state of mind that comes from being loved is essential to recovery from mental illness. That love could also be called compassion.
In 2000, I was not functioning well, but still had an overriding desire to get well. I believed if I could overcome social isolation and get more involved in the community, then I would be able to return to normal. Because I am interested in politics, I attended a meeting of the North Mecklenburg Democratic Party where I met N.C. State House Representative Beverly Earle. At the time, I did not know the immense role she would play in my recovery.
Rep. Earle was a very compassionate person. From the time that I reached out to her until the present, she has been my biggest advocate. Without her love and compassion, I would still be sick today. I remember she even answered my phone calls at 3 a.m. when I was hallucinating and hearing voices. That kind of unconditional love is essential to recovery. She invested in me so I could invest in myself. Now, I can invest in others.
My relationship with Rep. Earle, her compassion, her love and her understanding led me to empowerment. She took me as I was, and built me back up from despair to hope. She made the goals that I set for myself seem realistic, and encouraged me every step of the recovery process.
Freedom and Rationality
Recovering and returning to the world of rationality is an ongoing process. It means overcoming denial, finding the right medications, battling stigma, and finding the root causes of your illness. Once you recognize your problem, and receive the right treatment, then you will be able to move on with your life, and return to the world of rationality.
Tarik Kiley is a person supported by Monarch. He recently earned a Master of Arts degree in Geography with a concentration in Community Planning from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He continues to volunteer, remains very active in his community and serves as a mentor to others who seek recovery.