At first, my mother thought it was sun stroke.
Years ago, as a teenager, I wasn’t thinking clearly on a family vacation in California.
Delusional thoughts suddenly flooded in…was I, somehow, contaminating the pool I swam in? Was the air I breathed poisonous? I couldn’t shake these confusing and upsetting thoughts. I was terrified – and then, I started hearing strange voices. I just couldn’t cope.
We drove back home to Winnipeg, where medical professionals assessed my symptoms. Eventually I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and put on anti-psychotic medication.
Everything that was good in my life was suddenly gone.
I had been an honours student before then, but I couldn’t keep my grades up after the onset of my mental illness and had to drop out.
As I’ve aged, I’ve regained control over my life. I finished high school as an adult and started therapy in the McEwen Building at St. Boniface Hospital, where mental health services are offered. Having a supportive network has been instrumental in me staying out of hospital and living in the community.
I still hear voices, even though I’m on medication. Some are distressing, others aren’t. Usually I hear them all day – and sometimes they even wake me up at night. But now, I can cope.
It’s been more than eight years since my last hospitalization, and I know I can do eight more. I see a bright future ahead of me, thanks to the Mental Health Program at St. Boniface Hospital.
I’m proud to say, for more than 20 years I’ve given back as an outreach worker, and now volunteer providing peer support to others. I’ve worked with Name That Feeling, an educational support group for children who have a family member with a mental illness, and I’ve also worked to overcome stigma by sharing my story with others.
I’m made up of many things, and schizophrenia happens to be one of them. I’m Sherri, and this is my St. Boniface Hospital story.