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Life After the Schizophrenia Diagnosis
Overcoming stumbling blocks to succeed

Greg Hitchcock

As I sat in the lobby of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and stared at the security guard's holstered gun. Moments before, I had heard news that threatened my military career, and shattered my hope. I learned that I have schizophrenia, a mental illness my doctors called 'incurable'. I pictured that guard's pistol as a way out. Reason, fortunately, prevailed and I managed to walk away.

Soon, I discovered the General Issue (G.I.) Bill. It offered an affordable way for veterans to go to college. After the hospital, school was a breath of fresh air! I achieved the Dean's List, joined the drama club, and received a Bachelor's Degree in English. I found dreams can come true despite having an illness. Reality, just then, threw me another curve ball.

Unable to start a career as a professional, I ended up as a check-out clerk. I still believed that I had a promising future. I simply would need to find my strengths. I tried volunteering to see what fit me.

Unfortunately, when I couldn't find a position, I didn't see any point anymore. I then walked out on my job at the supermarket. That was my answer to everything: walk away.

It was time to take a break and analyze myself. No one wants an incompetent schizophrenic, I judged. If I stopped my medication then I would be seen as fully functioning. I would feel normal again so I stopped taking my medicine. It was a terrible mistake.

The voices that were banished from my mind returned. I isolated myself and didn't groom. I slept all day and stayed up all night. I ate junk food and watched T.V. at a halfway house for the mentally ill. I retreated from life.

Thank goodness, the Veteran's Administration helps veterans like me. A dedicated VA worker named Susan Maile saw the promise I had forgotten in myself. She called and visited me every day. She implored me to take my medication. We agreed that I would move out of the halfway house and into a more secure veteran's home with managed care. That is where and when the healing began.
I took my new medication, returned to living and giving back to the community.

I remembered an internship I once had at a magazine focusing on state government. I decided to focus on writing. I am now a full time newspaper reporter. I am, more importantly, engaged in my surroundings. I stand as an example that there is hope for people with disabilities.

There are challenges in my life, but life is worth living after all.

Greg Hitchcock is a writer and journalist living in upstate New York.
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