I am living with schizoaffective disorder and have been since my early teens. I believe I was living with this disorder most of my childhood, but I didn’t really get the support and medication that I needed until I was 19 years old.

My childhood was rocky. Mental illness runs in my family, but there were other incidents along the way that contributed. My mother and father divorced when I was two and my father remarried. I lived with him and my stepmother while I was growing up. They were not doing well together, so my well-being was not a concern for them. It was a teacher who suggested that I seek help and so I started counseling, staying with the same counselor for several years. When I was 19, I started on medication and for a time lived in a group home.

Looking back, it would have been helpful to get help earlier. My parents might have recognized my symptoms as serious, but they were suffering as well, and that made it difficult for them to consider me. It has helped to have medication and to attend counseling. Peer support has also made a big difference, so it’s important that I attend groups. I enjoy the people I share time with here at HOPE and it makes a difference in my ability to move forward in my recovery. It was life changing to have someone care enough about me to tell me I needed help, because I didn’t know. I will always be thankful to that teacher.

For people who are looking for help, the most important thing in the recovery process is be open and honest. There isn’t much point in asking for help, unless you are willing to do that. For those who might want to make the road to recovery smoother for someone living with mental illness, it’s important not to judge. We who live with a mental health disorder are able human beings and each of us can grow and change if we are nurtured. We are a lot like trees in that way. With support and nurturing our foundation gets stronger, which allows us to sprout new branches and grow in different directions.

Thank you. Your compassion and understanding can help break the stigma surrounding mental illness.

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