“To Hope Again”
By Rebecca Phillips
I grew up in a wonderful home with parents who loved me. I attended good schools and seven years after I was born, my sister Laura came along. I was always involved in school activities and I remember smiling in most of my pictures growing up.
In 1986, my family moved to Topeka, Kansas where my dad got a job teaching at Washburn University. I attended a private school where I made friendships I have kept for years. I excelled in school and performed in musicals and plays, had a babysitting business, organized some school activities and just really did a lot with my time. At age fifteen I received a book contract with Thomas Nelson Publishers in Nashville for a book of prayers I was working on for teen girls. I was busy to say the least.
In my junior year of high school I started struggling with depression. I started to be more introspective and started struggling with paranoid thoughts. I was angry at myself and I didn’t know where to turn with these distressing emotions. My parents drove me to Kansas City where I was hospitalized at a psychiatric hospital.
I graduated from high school in 1993 and went off to college at Kansas State University. I couldn’t handle the stress of school, however, and I roamed around campus and lost a lot of weight. I slept in a bathroom in one of the buildings one night and couldn’t keep up with any school work. I called my dad and my mom came and picked me up from school and I withdrew from the university.
I cut on myself and my parents called a hospital they had heard good things about in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I was admitted. I thought I was a failure for quitting school and I read specific Bible verses I thought pertained to me that had to do with my destruction and punishment. I couldn’t get up out of bed and I was so angry with myself and I couldn’t function. I was at the hospital for several weeks and was put on Risperdal a new antipsychotic medication that had just come on the market. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I improved and came back home to Topeka.
I struggled off and on with my paranoid thoughts and delusions and depression. I worked at different places and even though I had a two book contract with the publishing company which published my first book I couldn’t get my thoughts together to put together another book. My words were often bizarre and my thoughts tormented me. I was hospitalized about ten times throughout my twenties and early thirties.
In 2006, I hit a low point and I threw all my medication down the toilet. I tried to sell my car and my laptop and I tossed my living room furniture in the dumpster in the apartment complex where I lived. I thought my neighbors were out to get me and I called the police and my leasing manager. I was terrified and I slept in a parking lot nearby one night because I believed I was unsafe in my apartment.
A lot of scary things happened during that time and my sister and mom came to my apartment in February of 2007 to take me to a hospital they had researched and heard good things about. I didn’t want to go with them. I thought they were going to send me to a prison. I thought I was a criminal. My sister sat in front of my bathroom door and said she really wanted me to go with them and that if I didn’t she might have to call the police.
I didn’t want that to happen so I made the decision to go with them. The people at the hospital were very kind and judgmental. The doctors observed me for a couple of days and then asked if I just wanted to take an injection–no pills. I thought about it for a brief time and thought that was a great idea. So in Feb. of ’07 I started a new medication–Risperdal Consta an injection I have taken every two weeks since then. I haven’t missed a single dose.
That really started my amazing recovery. I still struggled with lack of motivation at times and paranoid thoughts but I was finally in control of my horrific symptoms and I felt happy again. I started seeing a social worker for therapy and I started attending groups at a local mental health center. Later into my recovery They even asked me to be in a commercial about the center to talk about how much the people there had helped me.
I was approached by a pr person at Janssen Pharmaceuticals to be in a national documentary about my illness schizophrenia. I have been to Washington D.C. for the film premiere, to Manhattan, NY, to Chicago and to Sacramento to promote the film and talk about my story. I also started a community blog for the online newspaper in the city where I live and I have written shorter pieces for magazines and newsletters. I advocate now for mental health issues and funding and I stand up for those who go through what I have been through.
I know that my family is proud of me and my sister and mom have been a major part of my recovery and the secret to my success. My faith also plays a huge role and my friends who have always been there for me. I will never give up and I have consciously made the decision that no matter how bad the intrusive thoughts are at times I will not kill myself. I know that I have come so far and I know that I have reached out to many others with the story that I call my own. I know that schizophrenia is not a death sentence and I see it now as a gift. I see it as a gift to connect with others and reach out and help others who need it. I will never give up and that gives me hope.
Rebecca Lyn Phillips is an author and public speaker. Her book “Heart to Heart: a devotional for teen girls” was published in 1994 by Thomas Nelson Publishers. She has been in a national documentary about her schizophrenia called, “Living with Schizophrenia: a Call for Hope and Recovery.” It can be viewed at the website http://www.choicesinrecovery.