Daniel Helman had a psychotic episode at age 20, but has been off all psychiatric medications since 2006 and is now 44. In Schizophrenia Bulletin, he describes how he always refused to resign himself to the notion that he would never recover, the practical strategies that have helped him, and how important it has always been to recognize that the “symptoms” of schizophrenia can also be seen as normal and even life-affirming in different contexts.
“In the 1990s I was told many times that I would never recover,” writes Helman. “I would have to be on psychiatric medication for the rest of my life. In being adamant that the professionally accepted treatment modality of being on psychiatric medication forever was not warranted, I opened myself up to being labeled as refusing to cooperate. I suffered because of my interest in speaking plainly. Professionals using the PANSS (a test to evaluate the presence or severity of schizophrenia) have always scored me poorly for refusing medication. That is, category G.12 (which is a general psychopathology term and not specific to schizophrenia) states ‘Lack of Judgement or Insight: 7. Extreme—… the patient may … refuse to cooperate with therapists, medication, or other aspects of treatment.'”
“My actions need not have been interpreted this way,” continues Helman. “I would follow the notion of being able to recover to the end of the earth, notwithstanding. One needs to have faith in oneself! Psychiatric medications were a short-term solution for me. I do not see how they could be a long-term solution for anyone, what with the toxicity involved, and the paucity of long-term studies. I believe the main problem for me was metabolic, and the main solution was changing my lifestyle: diet, exercise, work, social endeavors, religious belief (charity), and responsibility.”
“At least in religious circles, seeing things is basically normal,” writes Helman. “It is important for those with schizophrenia to see themselves as normal. A religious framework affords this to a very large degree. Hopefully, the contents of that framework are positive and life-affirming!”
Schizophrenia Is Normal: My Journey Through Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery (Helman, Daniel S. Schizophrenia Bulletin. September 2, 2014. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbu131)