Natalie's Story: Living with Schizophrenia and Hearing Voices

A forty year old woman stands with her hands in her pockets in a forest in autumn. Image of model taken from iStockphoto.

My name is Natalie and I am 40 years old. I am unable to do paid work, I live at home with parents and my brother.

I have always suffered with mental health problems, although previously they went unknown to me. They brewed up over many years and eventually came to the forefront in 2001 whilst I was on holiday in the United States. A number of other factors eventually led to a big crisis in 2004 – I had worked as a Data Entry Operator for five years in a company which dealt with market research; I liked the job very much but was unfortunately made redundant in 2002. Then in 2004 I had a very bad episode of psychosis which involved hearing voices and experiencing severe mood swings. Following this episode, I was admitted to hospital.
Having always been under consultation, I was discharged in 2008, yet I then had to be referred back the same year due to the fact I was having problems with my medication and my mental health was worsening. I suffer with hearing voices, paranoia and anxiety and had to be admitted into hospital for 2 months. They gave me treatment and I was then put on medication, which not only made me feel like a zombie all the time, but also caused me to gain weight as I was eating virtually non-stop. I am relieved to be back in the community in a different frame and I now wish to tackle any stigma attached to mental health.

I have for many years been involved in fitness, participating particularly in aerobics classes, so I personally know that the benefits of exercise for your mental health are substantial. Even though I have schizophrenia, it definitely doesn't stop me from working-out, whether it’s aerobics or dance or even Zumba (which I’ll shortly be starting). People have suggested that pilates or yoga might help me to de-stress, but it’s aerobics that does the trick for me!
I do have other hobbies that help me to manage my mental health, such as knitting with my Walkman on – I find that listening to my own carefully selected music helps me stay relaxed if I feel like I’m getting too stressed. I have an interest in writing and submit articles for my Day Centre's magazine. I have also just started attending a regular group within the Day Centre, so I'll be busy with that for a couple of hours every other week. I also volunteer for charities when I am needed and for four years now I’ve had a befriender who I meet up with once a month and I hope this will continue.
Presently, I am very much better under my GP’s care. Although I am now feeling well and I do not hear voices as frequently as before, I do occasionally still suffer with disturbed nights, meaning that I don’t always get a good night’s sleep. I am a very positive person living with schizophrenia and hearing voices, and I will continue to use my strategies and do voluntary work for charity organisations where I can.

Update: 2013

I am now 42 years old. I am still unable to do any paid work, however, I volunteer for a couple  of charities across North West London; I help out with mailings, bag stuffing and group work. Just recently I have had a bad fall, my mental health is absolutely fine, on same daily high (not too high) dose. I also have just been chosen to give computer tuition one to one support at beginner level in my own day centre setup, this will take some time and some doing before I can actually commence.      

In my spare time, when well, I attend Zumba classes and from October, there will be a new batch of exercise classes, in my community centre in North West London. In the meantime I have just started to attend a Zumba group in my own area.

I am also on a waiting list for a different Befriender run via my day centre head office.

Now, mental health wise, it all flared up, back in 2001, I began to have mental ill health issues flaring up and was referred to a consultant, then it flared up again whilst I was on holiday, but once I was back on English ground everything was fine, and I wasn't on medication. Then, in 2004, I had a series of big setbacks, I had mental health problems, and was admitted to a hospital unit. Prior to that, I had dissappeared briefly but was then luckily found again. I have been discharged as in inpatient from 2004, and on a worst medication from that year, and discharged completely from Barnet Mental Health in 2008.   

In 2007, I was put onto a better medication which hadn't caused weight gain, I am now and since then able to work out in low impact dance, aerobics in at home, and attending Zumba based style classes. 

I live at home, with my brother and parents.          

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