Editor’s note: This week, we’re pleased to feature P4SM guest blogger Mike Hedrick’s Story of Strength. An accomplished writer, Mike discusses the role writing has played in his 10-year journey living with and finding recovery from psychosis, specifically, schizophrenia. Have a Story of Strength about mental health experiences to share? Submit it here, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. 💪
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that psychosis is not the end of the world. You can and will do great things if you put your mind to it. If I can do it, you can too.” -Mike Hedrick
I’ve always been good at writing. It was a natural talent that seemed to spring up out of nowhere, and I can remember having dreams in high school, after I joined the student newspaper, of starting my own magazine. I can remember thinking how cool it would be to be able to publish a magazine like SPIN or Rolling Stone where I’d get to write about music and other stuff I loved everyday. I always thought something like that would never get old, and it hasn’t seemed to yet.
After high school, I joined the student newspaper and the poetry club at my university. I got some pretty good clips and made some great friends doing that, but around the second semester of freshman year, things started to go a little south. I was naturally kind of a quiet, anxious guy, and I don’t know if it was in my head or not, but, at some point around that time, I started to feel as if everyone was making fun of me, even my friends.
I did what I could to keep going to class and keep up a social life but what seemed like a weird notion eventually developed into a pretty all consuming paranoia that people were making fun of me. As a result I started self-medicating with marijuana and got pretty heavily involved in that culture.
As things progressed I quit the student newspaper, started smoking more, and eventually stopped even seeing my friends, choosing instead to stay in my dorm room and smoke weed. Somehow I passed all my classes and transferred to a university closer to my hometown, but that was the year things started to get strange.
I was still deeply paranoid about people and somewhere along the line I realized, or I thought I realized, that I was receiving secret messages. Either it was in the lyrics of songs I heard, or it was in things I heard on TV, or it was the body language of people I interacted with.
Either way, it occurred to me that I must have been a pretty important person if the TV and radio were playing messages targeted specifically at me. It occurred to me that I must have been a prophet or a secret king, I didn’t have anything specific to go on because these indications were never concrete, but I knew I was important.
I spent more and more time at my apartment smoking weed and getting heavily involved in things like aliens and Mayan prophecies and other weird stuff.
Each time I turned on the TV it would be telling me something, and, for some reason, commercials about airlines struck a chord. It occurred to me that they (whoever they were) wanted me to go on a mission. After fighting that notion for several months, I decided to give in one Friday night and drove to the airport.
The next week found me paranoid, psychotic, and delusional, stumbling around the east coast from New York to Boston and eventually rural Massachusetts where I had no choice but to give up the mission and admit defeat. Thanks to a kind woman who picked me up as I was hitchhiking, gave me a place to stay, and bought me a ticket, I found my way home where I would spend the next week in the hospital after worrying my parents to death and talking crazily about a divine mission.
That was almost ten years ago.
I struggled for a long time after that but eventually, with help from my doctor and my family, I found my way back to writing. I’ve since written several books and had my work in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Writing has been a catharsis for me and it’s helped me get a grip on the crazy things that have happened and a grip on the things I’ve thought.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that psychosis is not the end of the world. You can and will do great things if you put your mind to it. If I can do it, you can too.
Psychosis, although a scary word, gives you strength; it gives you an incredibly resilient view of the world and you can see that a lot of the stuff most people complain about is small beans and really no big deal comparatively.
If you can deal with psychosis you’re pretty much set for life because there’s nothing as hard as recovery. You will make it. It may be hard, but take it from me: you are strong.
Guest blogger Mike Hedrick is based in Boulder, Colorado and serves on Partners for StrongMinds’ Creative Council. He has lived with schizophrenia since he was twenty and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Scientific American and a variety of other places. His book ‘Connections’ is available on Amazon, and you can find more of his writing on his blog, The Schizophrenia Blog. He is one of the most inspirational people we know.
Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass