Written by Austin Mardon
By this time in my life, my family had expected that I would be a professor teaching geography somewhere. By the time I was 30 years old, I had a Bachelors and 2 Masters degrees, and was working on a PhD. I had been to the Antarctic with NASA looking for meteorites, decorated with the US Navy’s Antarctic Service Medal, and routinely presented research papers at scientific conferences. Then one day like a veil coming down, that all ended. I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
I knew what that word meant. My mother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia when I was just 5 years old. As it turns out, perhaps that was actually a blessing for my life. I’m convinced I have never gone off my medication in part because I saw what that did to my mother. On the old first generation medications, I just existed. My world wasn’t much larger than my small basement apartment. When the atypical medications came on the market, my world expanded dramatically. I began to volunteer. It got me out of the house, and out of myself. Then 8 years ago, I made my latest medication change. I switched to a long acting injectable. I went from sleeping 12-14 hours a day, to sleeping 7-8. That means I am awake 40 hours more a week. It’s changed my entire world.
I often get asked how I have done so well in life even though I have Schizophrenia. The answer is simple. I have never consciously gone off my prescribed medication. As to why I have never gone off my medication that is a much harder question to answer. I suppose deep down, I realized that life is precious, and I didn’t want to lose a moment of it to this illness that I didn’t have to.
I’m told that a relatively small percentage of us take our medication as prescribed. That’s not just for those with schizophrenia, that’s also for diabetics or people on high blood pressure medication. If you have diabetes and you don’t take your medication, you might go blind or lose limbs. If you don’t take your high blood pressure medicine, you might have a stroke or kidney failure. If you don’t take your neuroleptics, you might become psychotic.
I have watched some of my friends repeatedly go off their medication, and each time they get re-stabilized back on them, they seem to be a bit worse off. They seem less stable, less cognizant, and as if they have lost a bit of themselves along the way. If I hadn’t stayed on my medication, I wouldn’t be married today; I wouldn’t have a son, and a brand new granddaughter. I would have missed out on really living my life.
Life is worth living, and I want to enjoy every minute of it. All I have to do is stay on my medicine. There are people in third world countries that have no access to the medication I receive. They have no chance at the kind of life I have. What right do I have to turn my back on treatments that less fortunate people have no access to? Instead, I’m grateful for my life, and the medications that make it possible.
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