Listen to an expanded version of Rick's message here
Rick is a 53 year old, single African-American man who was interviewed at a local community mental health center (CMHC) in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time of his interview, he was newly in his own apartment and had been attending the CMHC for several years.
Lack of relationships with others, particularly family, is a strong theme in Rick’s story, and this started in childhood. When Rick was 10 years old, he was removed from his mother’s home and placed in foster care. Then, as an adult, he found out that his mother had died, so he wanted information about what happened to her. He was instructed to contact the Coroner’s office, and when he did that, he was told by the coroner that the woman he inquired about did not have a son. Having been told that the woman he thought was his mother was not his mother, he now questions most things about himself.
I’m just looking for some answer. I’m hurting. I’m hurting bad… I might seem all right on the outside, but, you know, on the in-… I am really tore up. I’m just so confused. I’m still wondering if that was my mother, if that was my… You know, I don’t even know who my family was. I don’t know, but I’m just going through all this. I don’t even know if that was my real name. I don’t even really know if that’s my age…
Rick is longing to know more about and have connection with his family. However, he has been unable to get information from any of the people he thought he was related to, as he is estranged from most of them. But he finds connection at the CMHC.
You know, a lot of people turn their back on me…. And that’s what isolated me from family, you know? So, it’s like that now… That’s why I’m here every day... They, they are part of my family here, you know. I mean, when my son passed away, they really showed me support, support ‘cause I didn’t know what to do. I was, I was devastated… I just didn’t know what to do.
Having weak social support networks is a common experience for individuals with schizophrenia. In addition to schizophrenia, Rick also struggles with heart problems, depression, GERD, high blood pressure, and asthma. Several years ago, Rick suffered a stroke that resulted in his spending three months in a rehabilitation hospital and taking several years to recover to the point he is now.
Rick: ‘Cause I was determined to get outta that bed. I mean, every time the nurse came and look for me, I wasn’t… I eased outta that room.
Interviewer: You were gone!
Rick: I was into that gym, do what they do with the weights and stuff, trying to get myself better... I was determined to get up outta that, you know, bed. I wasn’t gonna lay there… They was surprised how I, I improved and… ‘Cause this side of my face was way up here.
Rick: You know, and I wasn’t walking or… I went to lots of therapy. I went to physical. I went to the umm, the uh, the uh…
Rick: For my speech, yeah. And I went to occupational. I was doing a lot of therapy all during the week. You know, even though when I got out the hospital. That was wearing me down. But, you know, here I am.
Rick attributes his success in being able to cope now that he is out of the hospital to the mental health day program he attends. Listen to him speak of the support he received here.
His speech and walking abilities have returned; however, he continues to struggle with bouts of confusion. Despite the confusion, Rick feels fortunate to have regained what he has and would like to provide encouragement to other stroke survivors:
I would like to give stroke people encouragement. Don’t give up… Just don’t give up and just be strong, and just hang in there.
Rick is very confused about a lot of things in his life and in pain over that confusion. However, his solution to helping himself deal with the pain is to help others who have had experiences similar to his. In addition to being raised in foster homes, he also spent a lot of time in group homes across Ohio and Kentucky, having had trouble with mental health issues since childhood. Thinking back on these experiences, Rick would also like to offer encouragement to young people currently in those circumstances:
Rick: I would say, “Look I was here, you know. This is where I was at before… Look, y’all can do it. I did it.” Even though I would share a little of my, little story with ‘em, you know?
Rick: And just say, “This is how I came back, y’all. You know if I can do it, ya’ll can do it.” … things like that, I would just share my little story and….
Interviewer: Try and give them the encouragement to keep going…
Interviewer: …and move forward.
Rick: Mm-hm. Yeah.
Interviewer: Sometimes that’s what people really need…
Rick: They do.
Interviewer: …when they’re going through a rough time.
Rick: Yeah. Quite sure some people out there went through the same thing I’m going through if not worser or lesser. But I can just share my story with ‘em, and I know they’ll be like, “Wow!”… I mean, that’s what I would love to do.
Toward the end of the interview, Rick was asked what it was like to tell his story, for we believe that the act of telling one’s story can be healing in and of itself. Rick’s response confirms this belief.
Interviewer: What was it like, what’s it been like talking to me, today?
Rick: This has been great. I mean, ‘cause I can get stuff off of my chest. If I wouldn’t have been talking to you, I’da just been walking around and them things just on my head, I mean. I couldn’t wait for this moment, really… I couldn’t wait… Talking, just talking, letting things out... ‘Cause I been just walking around in circles.