Those of us who struggle with Mental Illness know how difficult it is to even get out of bed sometimes. We treasure the little victories, as well as the big ones.
Even simple things like showering sometimes become a huge task. Feeding ourselves. Getting groceries. Finishing school. Landing a job. Keeping a job. That’s just a small sample of things that most people take for granted but that requires a major effort from our part. Effort that let us both physically and emotionally exhausted.
It is easy for us to become discouraged. To lose hope. To not see the light at the end of the tunnel.
But every now and then -and more and more as time goes by, we read about stories like this.
Neil Marshall was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when he was 21. He had to drop out of a computer science degree at the University of Waterloo. Now at 33, he just defended his Master’s thesis in Mathematical education at Brock University.
I am sure it was not an easy journey. I am sure he had difficult moments, dark moments. But he stuck to it and made sure he has the right tools for the job: “He had coping strategies in place — learning to anticipate when symptoms were getting worse, doing work well in advance of the deadline, taking breaks when he needed to and building a large support system among faculty and friends.”
Living with Mental Illness for many of us becomes a matter of just barely surviving. Being jobless and even homeless is not that rare. And even if we do have a job, we still have to deal with stigma at the workplace. Like we didn’t have enough to worry about already.
That’s why it’s good to hear success stories. I find them reassuring. I know that each and every story is not necessarily the path for everyone – as even Marshall remarks, but it does give me hope.
While it’s true those with severe, chronic mental illness face a 70 to 90 per cent unemployment rate, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, and achieving a university degree is a major barrier, Marshall said telling his story is not about encouraging others to follow exactly in his path.
For Marshall, it’s about recalculating what you believe you are capable of.
“There’s a lot of very beautiful moments that came out of my life after I put my mind to changing my story,” he said. “I always lament that I’m a square peg in a round hole. But sometimes you’ve just got to hammer that peg in as hard as you can.”
Read more about the story: Success for student with schizophrenia