I am a Media and Arts Mental Health Advocate who publishes poetry works about my lived experience with schizophrenia. My contemporary free-verse poetry and memoirs are auto-biographical. I write for myself, as well as in the hope that others with similar issues can relate – at an emotional level. I have published several lived-experience articles for Yahoo!7, Conexoz, and Mindshare, as well as created short films and photo-stories.
Poetry and photography are the preferred media for my arts practice, and this practice is also useful in managing my symptoms. I find writing very helpful in getting my emotions down on paper, and it offers a personal pathway that is creative and therapeutic in nature. Art plays a role in my recovery because I like being creative and helping people.
What is unique about being a poet is to write about my lived-experience so others can relate who share similar issues. The feedback is that others too feel they aren’t alone when they read my poetry.
In 2006 I decided to write a poem while laying in bed for ten hours a day with clinical depression. After finishing it, I moved onto getting out of bed for two to four hours a day. This lead to showering, walking for an hour a day, and generally maintaining wellness. Creating this poem about a thunderstorm as a metaphor for all my symptoms, it was published a year later under the title, The Storm of Schizophrenia. Writing and seeing that I could finish something, even though my illness occurred, gave me hope for the future. In 2015, my first self-published book was called The Gospel of Schizophrenia. I continue to produce a website that has all my published works on it, available over the internet, for other who have the lived experience, or interest to browse.
The recovery module – my psychiatrist told me – stated that even the smallest achievement could be built upon to lead to a successful recovery. I write about both the good and bad influences. If I feel in a bad situation, I want freedom from that situation. In writing about a positive situation, it helps me in my recovery journey.
I found that some people weren’t so accepting of my mental illness, for whatever reason. It took a while to sort out the good friends from the not-so-supportive friends, and to learn to accept that some people just won’t come around. As I wrote about my lived experience with mental illness, I found that I began meeting like-minded people who had similar interests of advocacy.
Personally, I don’t want to rely only on Disability Support Pension but to be working again. I want to maintain a relatively normal lifestyle regardless of the symptoms. People can become productive members of society, even though at times dipping in and out of wellness. Currently I am studying Laboratory Techniques to pursue my dream into reality.
Story told to Loretta Picone.