Tag Archives: schizophrenia

National Recovery Month Stories: Psych Nurse

Hello everyone, welcome back to to Story Project. This week we have a story from a treatment provider (who wishes to remain anonymous) and she has an interesting perspective on what it’s like to deal with addiction and recovery from the other side, to be the person who watches and guides patients through that process. I think her message shows that people who provide treatment really do care.


As a psychiatric nurse I deal every day with people who are trying to cope with anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia, or other mental illnesses. Many of them have been trying to cope with the distress of their illnesses by self-medicating. Some abuse prescription medications such as anxiolytics or pain meds, still others use marijuana and tell themselves it’s “not really a drug,” some drink excessive alcohol, and others take anything they can from LSD to mushrooms to crack cocaine to meth.

The one characteristic all these people have is that they come to treatment in pain. And just being in treatment doesn’t mean they are hopeful about being there. A large part of the staff’s job is to help the patients find that hope. Without it, nothing else progresses because the work in overcoming illness and addiction is hard.

If someone arrives still under the influence of drugs/alcohol they have to go through detoxification. We use medications to try to ease them through that process, but it is still not an easy one. However, almost always after detoxing the patient is much better able to consider other things on which to focus and be able to stay focused on those things that form the steps of recovery.

During treatment, other means of coping with stress need to be found for each patient, and better habits of responding in a new and less destructive way. The lucky ones find the right person with whom to explore, process, and resolve their underlying issues, particularly trauma. Without that process, relapse is all too common.

I admire anyone who makes that first step and starts some kind of treatment. I use the analogy that everyone has a little red wagon and we pull it around, carrying our emotional baggage. In treatment we try to help the patient unpack some of that baggage, put it in the right storage, or maybe even discard some of it, making the wagon a little lighter to pull.

Treatment is available but you may have to look for it. Some people are fortunate enough to be able to afford wonderful private facilities. Others have to hope they are lucky enough to find good care in a public system. Keep looking. Ask for guidance, but seek help if you are dealing with addiction or any mental illness. I have seen life-changing results from getting the right care. Best wishes in your recovery.

Anonymous, RN-BC, MSN


Serenity Now!: Some Holiday Mental Health

For those who live with mental illness, Thanksgiving can be a very stressful holiday. For those with eating disorders, obviously, the major focus of this holiday is food. Being faced with the prospect of an exceptionally large meal may bring up urges to restrict, binge, or purge– even for those in recovery. For most of us, the stress comes from the pressure of being with a lot of family at once, or the chaos of traveling. Having a bunch of family and friends gathered, while joyful, can also breed painful conflict; old wounds can be opened during this time. For addicts, it may be about staying clean. For those with bipolar or schizophrenia, it may be about staying on their meds. Sometimes even old abuse that never got talked about still simmers beneath the surface.

This was the way it was in my family for a long time. I empathize if you are stuck in a similar situation. What my therapist had me do– and I found this incredibly helpful– was make a list of the things I was truly thankful for. Things that I loved and made me want to be alive. And when I wanted to engage in family conflict, when I started to feel affected, I focused on that list.

I truly, truly hope that no one needs the above technique because you all have loving families to be with this Thanksgiving. May we all remember to be grateful for the things we are blessed with, no matter how small. Have a great holiday!

Warmth and love,

© Sarah Henderson 2010