I am 48 years old and have recovered from symptoms of schizophrenia that lasted for a duration of over 30 years. For myself I have found pharmaceutical drugs to be the most effective way to treat my mental health condition. To get on the right medications was much like working a Vegas slot machine. It was a hit and miss gamble to find ones that yielded the best results. Because everyone is neurologically and psychologically unique, finding the right medication for myself was a pain staking, time consuming and costly process.
It demanded an open mutual trust between both myself and my psychiatrist. I’m now on a regime of four different types of anti-psychotics and two mood stabilizers; taking a mixture of this many drugs is known as a medication cocktail. This regime of medications is fine tuned to me personally with a great deal of neurological precision. They are the single most important element in empowering and maintaining my mental health stability. I could not afford this combination of drugs without government assistance. To alter my medication would directly jeopardize my recovery, which is more precious to me than any sum of money. One of the mood stabilizers I take I am very dependent on; it is for an anxiety disorder I also suffer from.
I was once on vacation with my father in Naples, Florida and getting dressed to go out to dinner with him. I had a Native American medication pouch hanging over my tie holding a couple of these anti-anxiety pills in it. When he saw me he firmly said, “What do you want to do, stand out like a neon light? Take that thing off!” I became upset. At that point in time I was actively engaged in a major nationwide anti-stigma campaign.
I did not like conforming to the status quo of those who reside in Naples, Florida. I took the pouch off and put it in my pocket. On the way to the restaurant I realized that sometimes there are inappropriate settings to challenge the mentality that exists around those with mental health conditions, so I came up with a less noticeable way to carry my anti-anxiety pills, poison rings. Wearing two or three poison rings containing these anti-anxiety pills is a more inconspicuous means to keep this medication on me. Since wearing them he never questioned my apparel on this subject again.
Myself, like scores of others, have been advocating for social equality for those recovering from mental health conditions for decades. The PhotoVoice Project is one of the most innovative and creative ones I have been involved in. I am proud to be a participant of this brilliant visual effort to fight the stigma surrounding those with mental health symptoms.