My story represents the power of a community to change lives and to give people living with mental illness purpose and meaning.
My name is Rob and I was born in Henderson, North Carolina during an ice storm. That one storm was nothing compared to the one that was to come later in my life. I am an only child. I had to entertain myself because I had no siblings. My family always had pets to entertain me. I had a happy childhood and my parents treated me well.
At age 13 I was active in sports. I played soccer for 4 years and was on a swim team 2 years. I also played baseball and ran track. My grades in school were average, however mental problems were beginning to be evident. I did not fit in well with groups. I was slowly becoming aware that people treated me differently than they treated my friends and classmates. I began isolating, preferring to be by myself for long periods of time. I was unable to express my emotions in constructive ways.
Club Nova is not a substance abuse treatment facility. However, I will mention substance abuse because it was an issue that helped me understand my illness. After ending a bad relationship in 8th grade, I turned to drinking alcohol and doing drugs. I used from the age of 13 until I was 26.
By the age of 16 I was committed to a psychiatric hospital for thought disorders and anxiety. I ended up spending 10 years of my life in and out of psychiatric hospitals.
During my frequent hospital stays I was prescribed anti-psychotic medicines. Although these medications were very helpful they also had noticeable side effects. I had tardive dyskinesia (a drug induced Parkinson’s disease affecting the nervous system) for over three years. That side effect was constant facial twitches and the constant shaking of my hand.
Over time, my psychiatrists continued to have difficulty diagnosing an accurate illness due to my continual substance abuse. My doctors could not tell if my psychosis was drug induced or a chemical imbalance in my brain. A definition of psychosis is a mental disorder that has symptoms of loss of normal reality. I self-medicated to deal with my psychosis.
I remained abstinent from drugs and alcohol from 1997-2004. When my wife of six years and I divorced I relapsed for about 3 months. I remembered our lives together and our good times together which reinforced my sobriety. I have now been sober since 2004.
I learned a lot about mental health over the years I have lived with it. I believe my current diagnosis of schizophrenia manic type has been inherited by different family members. I have delusions followed by long periods of elevated moods and then more delusions. Delusions are beliefs that most people do not share and are often bizarre and distorted from reality. When I have delusions I cannot make any distinctions between truth or error. I have also had long lasting depression that led up to two suicide attempts.
I first came to Club Nova in 1997. I noticed members here seemed to have something I wanted. That was and still is today this: to live meaningful lives despite out conditions or diagnosis.
The continual support of my family, friends, members and staff has helped me accomplish my goals. I have had many transitional employment jobs through Club Nova. I have worked at General Vitamins, which ships its product from store to post office. I worked at UNC mail room sorting mail for the university and hospital. My third job was at American Builders Mortgage Co. where I hand addressed envelopes. I also worked for Mental Health of America in Orange County performing clerical work. My fifth job was at Chapel Hill Visitors Bureau. Another accomplishment that Club Nova helped me obtain was my G.E.D. After being out of school for 19 years I passed my G.E.D. exam with average and above scores.
In the past, I volunteered my time in the Club Nova Thrift Shop. I worked my way from a few hours a week to 2 hours a day Monday-Friday. I also sold tickets for breakfast in the main house.
I still experience anxiety and can have delusions. I get psychiatric help with counseling combined with prescription medicine. It helps me manage symptoms and keeps me with a clear conscience.
Since 1997, I have been an active member and have become more sociable. I feel members understand and accept me. It also helps that other members share similar ways of coping with their illness.
With Club Nova as a part of my life, I have not needed hospitalization for the past 12 years. I no longer feel caught in a raging storm of being cast out or apart from, but a part of something greater than myself.
I hope my family, friends, and Club Nova will be a part of my life for years to come. It is my relationships with all of theses people that have given me success not failure, happiness instead of sadness, and acceptance instead of rejection.