I would like to add a few more tips about how to cope with schizophrenia.
Although it can be difficult, it is possible to re-enter the workforce. I was fortunate that my old law firm in New Zealand accommodated me with my conditions and offered me the support I needed. I had been out of the workforce for a long time, particularly during the acute phase of my illness. I didn’t dream that it would be possible to practice law again, let alone in a large firm like the ones I had been accustomed to working for during my career. I was very lucky to reconnect with a partner who I had developed a good relationship with during my summer clerkship while I was a law student and he was happy to have me in his team. Being back in legal practice helped me to re-establish confidence in myself and get back on my feet again. I was lucky to be surrounded by supportive colleagues, many of whom had been friends of mine at law school. I still have a wonderful relationship with the firm which I hope to maintain in the future. It is a real testament to how caring and accommodating corporate entities can be, not just towards their existing staff members but also in the broader community.
As I have mentioned previously, there is a lot of stigma attached to mental illness. There are people who will look down upon you. In dealing with this, I remember something that a friend of mine from a church I used to attend once said to me. She has six children from three marriages, which is something for which she often felt judged. In dealing with this, she told me that if people wanted to judge her, it was on them, and not on her. I applied her attitude to my own situation and it made me feel much better.
Dealing with a problem such as a mental illness made me very present-oriented. It’s also important to look to the future and try and be as positive as you can in the circumstances. Life doesn’t always go exactly according to plan. I’ve learnt that you need to adapt and be able to accommodate the unexpected. Sometimes, you just have to make the best of a bad situation. Instead of feeling so ashamed of my condition, I’ve learnt to feel proud of my journey. Instead of feeling frustrated by the way it has limited me from doing what I want in life, I’m always looking for alternatives so I don’t feel I’m missing out too much or have to make too many compromises. One example is training. Exercise has always played an important part in my life. Being on and off medication means that my weight tends to fluctuate a lot. I’ve learnt to work around this and simply do the best I can in the circumstances. I have managed to compete in quite a few 10k running events notwithstanding my condition, which is something that I feel very proud of.