His Message:
“I’m a good person, first of all. I’m not, I ain’t no sex offender… I love America. I love our military. I love President Obama. He done the right thing, you know, protecting [our country]. My father did it too.”

Listen to T.J.’s message here:

T.J. is a 50 year-old white male who struggles with depression, in addition to schizophrenia, yet family relationships are his biggest focus. He was reared by a relative of his mother’s, and when as an adult he saw his mother shortly before she died, it was for the first time since he was 5 years-old. T.J. has a grown daughter who was given up for adoption, and she is also much on his mind, in spite of the fact that they have no contact.

I’m very concerned about my daughter. Yes, I’m very concerned about her. She might not want to see me. I can understand the uh passion that she might have with her adopted parents, ’cause I can recall when my parents were trying to pull me, my biological parents were trying to see me when I was a little kid, that I would push and fight.

T.J. lives alone, in an apartment he obtained through his own efforts. He is not currently employed, and he finds his day-to-day life a struggle. When asked to describe a typical day, T.J. responded:

When I can get up outta bed and be able to walk normal for once, I feel I’m moving a little forward. [I’m] feeling depressed all the time. I mean I’ve laid in bed for [so long]. Winter time is terrible for me. I just can’t move physically. You know…the weather outside like today, I kinda hurt today. I have pain in my neck, in my lower back and my legs all the way down, both of my legs all the way down.When I had my neck surgery on my neck, I had spinal cord compression.

In addition to his other problems, T.J. has struggled with alcoholism. There is a history of alcohol abuse in his biological family, and he believes that the propensity has been handed down to him. He knows that he will be unable to progress in his life while drinking, and at the time of the interview, he had been sober for some time.

They say, does alcohol run in the family? I-I think it does to a degree, but I – these people never raised me- my biological father, and [mother]. I’m very grateful that on my mother’s side of the family that I had people that cared about me, relatives that took care of me. (Sighs)

T.J. has had jobs in the past, but he is unable to find employment that pays enough to cover living expenses and his medicine. If he worked full-time, he would lose his medical benefits. This is a dilemma common to all those with schizophrenia.

I just felt…that I’m worth more than what they’re giving me. You know, if I’m going to get off disability and work…I think I’ll just feel better if I sometimes, if I can do something to work. But at the same time, I don’t want to lose my benefits just right away either. And keep a roof over my head or I’ll be right back to, you know, back to the shelters again. That’s something I just don’t want.

Listen to the above excerpt here:

Because being productive is important to T.J.’s sense of self-worth, he partially fills that need through volunteering.

I volunteer. I try to go up to Hope Center, and you know, tried to do things around there to…get the sign-out for groups and stuff. So I’ve just been going, trying to get everybody to participate…to get them in groups or something like that.

T.J. experiences much stress with his situation, but he has learned a way to cope and find calm and peace, by going to a quiet spot on the grounds of a nearby church.

I happened to walk by this little brick place and happened to see [a statue of] Virgin Mary up there, and I went and took shelter there. [Now] when things are going crazy around here…I just wanna just walk [to the spot by the church]. I can sit there for two/three hours sometimes, just to read a paper or just to do work, work on something you know.

In spite of his daily struggles, T.J. has found ways to manage his stress, and he remains interested in others, and motivated to contribute to the society in which he lives.