Her Message:
“I don’t consider myself a stereotype of mental illness. I feel like I live out the box—I stand out of the box.”

Mindy is a 56-year-old Caucasian woman living independently in an apartment in Cincinnati, Ohio. Mindy is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She agreed to be interviewed as part of The Schizophrenia Oral History Project because she wanted to open up to others about her life and her struggles. Mindy is a hard worker who currently volunteers at The Recovery Center, where she also takes classes.

Mindy has great memories of her childhood and a close relationship with her mom and sister. Her family moved around a lot when she was young. However, Mindy also had some struggles growing up. She remembers her brother physically molesting she and her sister and the impact this had on her family. Despite this hardship, Mindy still remembers being a happy child.

Listen to the Mindy talk about her favorite childhood memories:

When Mindy was 16-years-old and in high school, she had her first psychotic break. She was diagnosed with acute schizophrenia and put on medication. Although the medication gave Mindy horrible side effects, she stabilized, was able to stop taking medicine, and moved on with her life.

Listen to Mindy talk about her life following the diagnosis:

Life in the Navy served Mindy well. Unfortunately, her boyfriend at the time drugged her one night, leading to another psychotic break. Mindy was hospitalized for three months and unable to return to the service. Despite this setback, Mindy was able to get back on her feet.

When I got out of the service, I went into a halfway house called CRI, Cincinnati Restoration, Incorporated. And they—that was a stepping stone to going back to living independently. And I got an apartment, a subsidized apartment in Price Hill and then I actually got a job as a secretary at Easter Seals, and I was there for six months and got laid off because they went through a budget crunch. And then after that, I decided to try for another job. And I saw this ad in the paper for typists, so I applied for it and they called me and I got hired and I was there for five years, five and a half years. And I heard they were moving out of the area, so I went and got another job at Lazarus, and I was hired as a secretary there in a secretarial pool, and I worked there for two years and three months and then I got laid off from there. So, I—then after that, I was looking for a job and I got another job at Central Trust, which is now called PNC… And I was working at the bank for about four and a half—four years and ten months. Got laid off due to restructuring.

Mindy continued to jump from job to job, but the medication she started taking following her second psychotic episode began causing a side effect called tardive dyskinesia. Tardive dyskinesia is a condition caused by long-term use of antipsychotic medication. It can cause repetitive and involuntary movements. For Mindy, her tongue starting rolling around and hanging out of her mouth, and her body was “twisting.” Because of this, Mindy ended up back in the hospital.

I ended up in the hospital and then eventually I ended up in Mount Airy Franciscan, and I was in there for about eighteen days and came out and was put in Crisis Stabilization on Vernon Place. I was there for a couple weeks and then I had stayed with a friend of mine. She let me stay at her house for a couple weeks and—I think about a couple weeks and she tried to help me find a halfway house, along with my case manager, too. So, basically, I did eventually get another halfway house set up. That was in ‘96, and then I started going to IKRON and I went there for about almost two years and I was volunteering at the front desk, and actually I went through the rehabilitation program there. I was volunteering at the front desk and also getting paid for it as a part-time job. As a part-time job, I was getting paid for it. And I also worked at this Episcopalian—not Episcopalian, Church of God, and I worked there part-time, too… And I was trying to go to school at the same time and it was just too much pressure. I dropped—in fact, I dropped out of college… I then went to get hired as a secretary at Transitions, Incorporated in Covington—in Bellevue, Kentucky, and I was there for thirteen years—almost thirteen years.

When Mindy left Transitions, Incorporated, she began looking for another job. However, upon advice from her doctor, Mindy got on disability and began going to The Recovery Center. She has found a lot of meaning in her time at The Recovery Center and loves helping with their programs.

Listen to Mindy talk about her life leading up to her time at The Recovery Center and what she does there:

Even though Mindy is doing really well, she still deals with the daily struggle of hearing voices. As part of her diagnosis, the voices she hears make her think that others are out to get her, making it hard for Mindy to trust anyone she meets. One way Mindy helps distinguish what is going inside her head is to name her voices.

Interviewer: So your voices have names?
Mindy: Yes.
Interviewer: Interesting.
Mindy: Yes, because I think they’re people talking to me, so I personalized them. I put a name on them because—just to remind me or I see a picture in my mind of ‘em and I say, oh, that’s so-and-so. You know.
Interviewer: So you can identify which voice it is?
Mindy: Yeah.

Listen to Mindy talk more about her experience of having schizophrenia:

Mindy says that sometimes she knows when she is about to start hearing voices. When she is out and active, she is able to keep the voices at bay, but as soon as she gets home, the voices will start.

It’s like an explosion of energy or explosion of emotion. It’s physically and mentally, too… physically I get unhinged… I’ve got to check my purse to see, to make sure I have all my personal belongings and stuff, and so I get paranoid about it.

Despite hearing voices every day, Mindy has found ways to cope. She listens to music, exercises, takes walks, or sleeps.

Mindy: Well, basically I stay busy. If I can’t stay busy, I call a friend or call my mother or I get involved with church activities, I call my sister or I text my sister and—but I’m doing much better since I’ve been with GCB and I’ve been with my doctor—my present doctor for about sixteen years, I think, sixteen or seventeen years, maybe eighteen. I’m not sure. I can’t remember now.
Interviewer: Still a good long time.
Mindy: Yeah, so it’s about time I was right. So, it’s been hard. But one of the things I do have a problem with when I hear the voices or interact with people, I have a problem interacting with some people that I feel sort of—that want to be my friends but then they’ll back stab me, you know, or they’ll say–Like when I become a friend of somebody, I’ll come home and hear something bad, or hear them say something bad about me, like say, “You’re bad,” or “You eat too much,” or stuff like that.

Mindy also has a lot of interests and hobbies. She is involved in her church and loves art.

Listen to Mindy talk about what she likes to do for fun:

Another form of art Mindy enjoys is photography. She takes a class at The Recovery Center, called “Photo Voice,” where the whole purpose is to reduce the stereotype of mental illness.

Mindy: Photo Voice is where they’re working on recovery, the recovery piece is stigma on mental health.
Interviewer: Doesn’t that involve taking pictures?
Mindy: You take pictures and then—any kind of picture you want to of something and then put a narrative with it and it talks about the stereotype, the discrimination, the prejudiceness of it—of mental illness of people that don’t have that don’t have mental problems. And we’re trying to get it out in the public’s eye to see if we can change their attitude.

Reducing the stereotype of mental illness is important to Mindy because she has personally experienced prejudice. She doesn’t remember exactly what happened, but all she knows is that it made her feel different and “shut out.” Mindy believes that the people who made her feel this way were just uninformed about schizophrenia.

One thing that helps Mindy feel normal is working. It is very important to her to have a job.

It is important to me because, I don’t know, having a job makes me feel more positive because my self-esteem is more—I mean volunteer work is empowering, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I would rather make money with the work I’m doing because I need the extra cash and I need the—the—I guess the empowerment of being appreciated.

Mindy is currently doing really well managing her illness. She lives in her own apartment and takes the bus to places she has to go. Mindy is working on getting her drivers license, with help from her younger sister, so she can help out her mom. Mindy’s plan is to be able to move in with her mom in the next few years.

Mindy is currently not dating anyone, but she is hoping to find someone to spend her life with. She believes finding a boyfriend or husband would make her feel more complete.

Listen to Mindy talk more about wanting to find a companion, as well as some of her other wishes:

As for what Mindy’s wants others to know about her, she hopes others realize that she is a good person. Mindy says that just because she has a mental illness, it doesn’t mean she has done anything bad.

Listen to Mindy talk more about what she wants others to know: