His Message:
“I tried. I gave it the old college try. I mean, some people may think I’m a shirker—you hear these talk show hosts: “do away with social security.” Well the people that suffer the most would be hurt the most by it. You don’t know how everyday I just sit and wished I could have gone into work today, earned a living, been independent, not been on the system And people look at you like you’re just a shirker: “you’re feigning and you’re crazy, because you want your benefits.” I tried, I gave it my effort, and it just didn’t work out for me. Who the hell wants to live on 1,000 dollars a month, Dr. Crane? I mean, you think that’s fun? It’s not fun, it’s very difficult, and these people think it’s the greatest, it’s the life of Riley — no it’s not.​”

Listen to Bob’s message here:

Bob, at 47, has been living with schizophrenia for 30 years. He shares an apartment with a roommate, and he fills much of his time reading, especially in political history, yet time hangs heavy for him, and he has many regrets about his life, including the absence of friendship.​​​

In our world, in this world of schizophrenia, it’s hard to find friends. I mean, people always think, you’re different—that you don’t have enough money to go out and do the things that friends normally do, go to a ball-game.

Most of all, though, Bob regrets the life he believes schizophrenia has taken from him.

I’m 47 years old. If my schizophrenia hadn’t interrupted my dating years, then I would have started a job and established a family, and I would have probably had two or three kids by now. I would have been living in a nice house someplace.

It’s scary because you I think, ‘Oh, all the stuff I’ve missed’, you know? And, again, it’s been just a colossal waste. It’s terrible what it robs you of. People-you wonder why we’re never happy or some people are never happy even when they get the medicine. It’s because there’s always this reality that hits you. You’re never gonna quite be the same anymore. And there’s always gonna be a deficit somewhere. You’re not as good or you’re not as fast or you’re not as smart anymore and it just, it’s hard to live with. It really is.

Listen to an expanded version of the above excerpt here:

It’s Bob’s faith that gets him through the discouragement.

It just gives me peace. I know that no matter how terrible this life is, I have a faith in something greater than myself, someone greater than myself, that when I do die, it would have made all the suffering in this life worthwhile. I don’t believe people suffer for no reason. I believe there’s a reason for it. I still feel the pain of being a schizophrenic, but my faith is in Jesus and I just believe He will have a better place for me when this life is over. That’s why I can tolerate it.

Listen to the above excerpt here:

Also with time, Bob has learned that keeping the appointments with his case manager and staying on his medication has helped him cope. This is different from the early years of his illness, when he was reluctant to believe he had a mental illness and resisted treatment.

[Now] in 19 years I’ve missed two [medication shots] and I made both those shots up, after missing them. Case manager appointments—I don’t think I’ve missed one. It wasn’t an immediate transformation. My parents first started noticing I seemed a bit more social. I wasn’t hiding in the shell anymore, just cowering in myself, staying in bed days on end without coming out of my bedroom. I was socializing with people & getting back into life, basically. Not big things, it was little things, like getting a haircut or taking a bath on a regular occasion, brushing your teeth, just basic things.

Although Bob appreciates the services he receives, and he knows that he is able to function better because of them, he believes that changes in the mental health system need to be made.

What I’d like to see done is stop having a revolving door with case managers. I’ve had 35 of them in 20 years. That’s almost 1 every 6 months. Not that I’m not getting the proper services, but when a case manager leaves, you’re struggling to get with the new one, because he’s so overloaded with his case-work, getting a simple thing like an appointment with your doctor so you can get your medicine on time—that’s a problem. ​

Most of all, Bob misses the chance for accomplishments.

Bob: We wish we had something more creative to do then just spend our time going to the welfare office just getting enough food stamps or rent assistance or prescription drug assistance.
Interviewer: So you’d like to have something more productive to do?
Bob: Exactly! Something…you know?