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by Christine Andrew

When I tell people of my own personal experience of schizophrenia - and my recovery from it - I am often told, "You should write a book". Well, I don't know if I can quite manage that - but, perhaps, an article, so here goes!

I first began to show signs of 'schizophrenia' in 1966, at the age of nineteen - yes, I am that old! I was admitted to my local psychiatric hospital - a large Victorian ex-workhouse with over one thousand patients. Believe it or not, I was to stay here for the next five years! In those days, once labelled you were banged-up for life. I had twenty-nine ECT's - I can remember each one of them, particularly those which were given without anaesthetic - and far too much insulin - administered both as 'insulin-shock' and as 'modified' insulin. Suffice it to say that, after about three or four years, I was a complete "zombie" and I finally lapsed into a catatonic state.

Strangely enough, on recovering from this phase of the illness, I looked around me, thought "Not for me", and did a "runner". I don't know quite what happened, but I realised that I had sunk as low as I could go, and something just told me that I had to get out of the system. If I didn't, I would be institutionalised for life.

Subsequently, I 'escaped' from a locked second-floor ward, caught a bus into town, told a pack of lies to the Social Security Department, and found myself a bedsit. Things could then only get better - which they did!

I married the following year (in some haste, I must admit) in order to gain a more secure lifestyle. Sadly, the marriage did not last, but it produced three lovely children - and my 'ex' and I stay friends to this day.

I have slowly rebuilt my life - there is no magic formula. When the going gets tough, I am reminded that it is a million times better than the life I would have had as a drugged-up institutionalised "zombie"!

I weaned myself off drugs when the children were small - I could not have taken proper care of them otherwise - and have been fortunate enough to stay stable (relatively!) since. I haven't, at least, needed formal psychiatric care of any sort. Nowadays I have a 'support system' of family and friends - and am also personally helped by religious belief.

Yes, there can be life after schizophrenia: in my own case, nearly thirty years of a very satisfying and rewarding (though not always easy) existence.