National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from FaithNet NAMI

From Schizophrenia to Recovery and Working in the Mental Health Field

By Randy Sturdevant

I first remember the gradual decent into insanity starting when I was 13. I began to withdraw in my room and play video games for hours on end. I played them so much I needed glasses after not too long from staring at the computer screen. I became depressed and socially withdrawn more and more as the years passed. I kept my grades high through high school until the 11th grade. Before then I was even in advanced classes and on the honor roll.

Then in 11th grade, the social withdrawal and anxiety got so severe that I skipped school and started failing classes. The school counselor started seeing me. They couldn't quite pin down what was happening. I think they thought I was just being a typical teenage rebel. However, the truth was that I was descending into insanity.

I had started smoking marijuana around the age of 17. I smoked marijuana only 10 times, but when I did smoke, I became very paranoid, which I believe triggered something. My faith was also suffering. I was raised in a Christian home, but my life didn't reflect it and I hadn't yet accepted Christ. I then tried Buddhism and meditation. Meditation became an obsession, and for hours on end, I would meditate in my little world.

Eventually, I started having delusions of grandeur and started thinking the clouds in the air were signs of God talking to me. I began seeing distorted faces that looked sinister and evil. I started hearing weird, mumbled angry voices. People had fangs and hollow black eyes. I wouldn't eat or drink and I stopped sleeping. Then, I tried to run away from home and my parents called 911.

I was shortly after brought to a mental health crisis unit in Binghamton, N.Y., (CPEP) and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I was hospitalized a total of seven times. I would become euphoric and manic, then suicidal and depressed. At one point I almost tried to kill myself to end the suffering, but by God's grace I didn't. They tried over 20 different meds over the course of the seven years, and I would seem to get all the rare side effects. Among them, I developed a brain tumor on my pituitary gland and I developed tardive dyskinesia, twitches and dystonic muscle problems. My cognitive function was impaired greatly and I gained 30 pounds in one month.

I did not give up and eventually began to find recovery. After six years of that hell I managed to find the right medicine, by the grace of God. With the new medication, I was able to find relief with a low dose, which helped eliminate the side effects. This benefited my memory and I improved drastically. I became stable in my recovery and am now an editor of a journal at a mental health club.

Now, I am doing wonderful and plan on working in the mental health field. I plan, down the road, to pursue my doctorate or masters in psychology or psychiatry. I feel I have the experience and in-depth knowledge to greatly help other people who live with mental illness .

I want to help people just as much as God helped me in my time of trouble (which is a lot). My faith in Christ got me through those suicidal years and kept me alive to where I am today. It wouldn't be right to not thank Him personally for my recovery. I want to help people and comfort those in need and give back to the community. I would like to say to anyone struggling that there is hope. You can get better. Dare to dream big because you can recover and accomplish them. Just never give up. May God bless you all.

Randy Sturdevant is 24 years old and was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 18.