Natalie's Story: Living with Schizophrenia and Hearing Voices
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.
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