Yesterday, I received a notice from WordPress that I started my blog six years ago. That means that I came out publicly with my diagnosis six years ago and started to write about living with schizophrenia.
A lot has changed in six years. When I first started my blog, I was one of only a few dozen people writing about schizophrenia. Now, I see YouTube channels, new non-profits (created by people with schizophrenia), and many Instagram accounts that deal specifically with the illness.
The whole landscape has changed, and I have to say I think this is good news. More people talking about schizophrenia and writing about it and being open about symptoms and what life is like can only have a positive impact on those of us who struggle to live our best life. I hope that increased awareness also impacts treatment for those on the street and in prisons.
To have those who are sheltered and work diligently with therapists, psychiatrists, support networks, and have access to medication, write about our lives helps reduce stigma and stereotypes, but does that translate into a better life for the most vulnerable among us?
It seems that even Hollywood might be taking notice that many people can have dreams, relationships, and get an education, or work while living with a brain illness. The new movie Words on Bathroom Walls is an example of that.
Although we have made incredible progress, I continue to hear stories from those caring for a loved one with schizophrenia that getting treatment is still hard to manage. Law enforcement continues to be first responders during a mental health challenge or crisis.
I’m grateful beyond belief that after six years, more opportunities continue to open up for me, but that doesn’t mean that I think the mental health landscape is beneficial to all those who desperately need treatment.
As those of us who have support, treatment teams, and can manage to write or talk about our illness (when asymptomatic), I ask for you not to forget those who are in jails and prisons across the country. Prisons are still considered the most extensive mental health facilities in the United States. I also ask you to remember those without shelter who are struggling alone and possibly far away from people who care about them and might be willing to help them if only they knew their location.
It’s great that so many of us can give hope to the recently diagnosed and parents of children who receive the diagnosis and change the old boxes that society had us in. On the day after my blog’s birthday and a life I never imagined I be living (out in the open), I have one request: That all advocates work for a better life not only for those with the most but for those with the very least.
Happy Birthday, A Journey with You: Surviving Schizophrenia.