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We arrived home from Seattle after midnight last night. I spent four days with my dad in the small town where I grew up (Eastern Washington) and several days with two of my brothers.

It snowed one day. My husband raked leaves for the first time in his life (he has always lived in a condo or apartment and has never had a yard). I ate one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I have ever had. I ate butternut squash ravioli that was one of the best things I have ever tasted. I went to a multimillion dollar Starbucks where you can watch them process the beans (if you are ever in Seattle, I suggest you stop at this Starbucks it is a little like the Wonka Factory).

I learned I have a lot in common with my brother and my dad in terms of my thoughts and behavior and neither one of them has schizophrenia.

I learned that schizophrenia has not stopped me from growing. I am not static in my life. I continue to change, grow and develop. This is a message of hope for all of us with a mental illness. We many have to deal with symptoms, but we can still nurture qualities like kindness, generosity, compassion, self-confidence, happiness, acceptance, tolerance, etc.

We can constantly become better people with or without a mental illness.

Seeing family was great. The food was great. Having a small dose of winter was great, but once again being reassured that this illness doesnโ€™t have the best of me, was the biggest gift of all, because I canโ€™t appreciate the small and large of things if I am consumed by my illness.

Once again, it is important to remember, I am not schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is just something I have.

Iโ€™ve come such a long way in the last few years. This is not an easy road to travel, this illness of the mind, but there is so much beauty along the way, it is possible to cast out the bumps, bruises, knee scrapes, head knocks, etc. and just see the wonder of living and that wonder can sustain and carry you when nothing else will.