Her Message:
“If you have a mental condition, get some help for it, take your medications, try to get into some type of stress class or something, because you’ll end up like me. I’m surprised I’m alive today, I swear to God. I didn’t think I was going to make it to see fifty-years-old. Schizophrenic, bipolar is a serious condition. So it’s important to take your medication and get therapy and help for your condition.”

Annette is a woman of 50 years with schizo-affective disorder. Most of her life has been troubled, beginning with sexual abuse from her father, when she was less than 8-years- old, and continuing into her teen years, which she spent on the streets abusing drugs and alcohol. The addictions followed throughout her adult life, but at the time of our interview Annette had been drug free for two-years, and had been taking her medication regularly.

But I learned to take my medicine. I got there in and out of mental institutions most of my life. I’m finally 50 years old, starting to take my medications. I get very depressed a lot, but my case manager is trying to help me. I go to stress classes three times a week to try to help me, but I still have flashbacks. And it, you know, I learned, you know, that it wasn’t my fault what happened back then. I used to think it was my fault, but I know now that it wasn’t … Yeah. I’m working very hard on improving my life with stress classes, taking my medications …

Listen to an expanded version of the above excerpt here:

Annette attributes much of her current progress to her stress classes. Listen to her talk about why she likes them here:

In addition to her stress classes, Annette has found a church where people are supportive, and where she can put her love of singing and her talent to use.

I have confidence in my minister who’s really supportive of me. I don’t have many friends. I really stay home when I’m not in stress classes, watching TV or go to church. I sing in the choir. I love that. I really like, I always wanted to sing for the Lord. Yeah that’s, that’s the best thing that really came to my life, is my singing. I love singing. Yeah, I walk around the house singing *laughs* church songs. And I tell God every morning, “Thank you for waking me up this morning.”

In addition to struggling with schizophrenia and depression, Annette has other health problems that keep her close to home. She doesn’t have hobbies, and she has more spare time than she would like. As her life becomes increasingly stable, she would like to be able to volunteer. Annette expresses a desire that is common in the stories of our narrators: the need to give-back, through contributing to the lives of others.

I’d probably do some volunteer work in a nursing home. Because when I was in there I took care of other people. Yeah, I like reading to them, stuff like that … I learn a lot from them, talk to them, read the Bible and stuff to them, you know? I just like doing stuff like that … It makes me feel good inside … I have old friends, so I might clean up for them, or go to store for them. I have an old friend, she about 90 something, in church, we talk every day. She my best friend, she is a friend. She an old lady.

Listen to an expanded version of the above excerpt here:

Annette is making continued strides in creating a life where she can be more comfortable and productive, yet she continues to struggle—as much with the difficult experiences in her past, as with her mental illness.

Yes, I’m happy with my life. I’m happy with my life, and I’m sad with my life, because my past keep flashing back. As I get older, it still is coming back to me, and I don’t know how to deal with it. But I have to. That’s why I go to them classes, to try to deal with my life.