Through grades 8 to 10, I could be categorized as an “overachiever.” I took 8 courses a year, plus extracurricular, and outside of school tutoring sessions put immense weight on my shoulder. Finally, one day, I cannot take it anymore. I started experiencing the first symptoms of psychosis.
I still remember the day when the doctor at the hospital told me that I needed to be hospitalized for a mental health problem – psychosis. I didn’t believe him or anything anyone told me about the illness for the beginning half of this journey. The doctors at the hospital emphasized the importance of medications. The first medication that I tried wasn’t the best for me. I experience negative side effects from the oral medication (Olanzapine) such as extreme tiredness, which forced me to stay back from normal everyday activities. I didn’t want to go to the Early Psychosis Intervention Program (EPI) after I was discharged from the hospital and was reluctant to take my meds. My parents had to drag me out of the car and even then, I had that sense of stubbornness in me.
It wasn’t until the second time that I was delivered to the hospital that I realized that indeed, I do have an illness to fight and that I want to get better for myself and for my family who has been supporting me through this illness for a long time. I started to put myself through positive self-talk through the doubting times and most importantly, to achieve balance in life. The balance in my life, before I realized that I was sick, was always tipped to one side more than the other. I started to incorporate light but fun physical exercises into my daily routine and I began eating more healthy and putting my weight under control. I switched to liquid injection “paliperidone” instead of the old oral medication. It helped my symptoms go away and the negative side effects are minimal.
I began to ease off my course load at school because I know that my brain cannot do so much in such a short period of time. I need to take things easy before it gets challenging. I need to be kind to myself, which I would never imagine myself doing before I was formerly diagnosed with psychosis. Because of the reduce in course load, I was forced to graduate high school a year later. The fact that I’m not going to go to university shocked me at first, and it was also hard for my family to come to terms with. With my family background rooted in China, it was expected that kids go straight to university after high school. I know that I’m behind no matter what other people say, but one day, I came to realize that I’m much ahead of my peers in taking good care of myself, whether it’s emotional or physical.
The journey to obtain the healthy self is hard but it doesn’t have to be a trip by yourself. You can always use resources that are around you (EPI, family, friends and school). If you are lucky enough to look at your sides, you realized that your support team at EPI is a like your second family. Firstly, they know everything about you other close friends might not know about. Secondly, the amount of care from psychiatrist, case managers, clinical counselors and social workers show for you comes from their pure and compassionate hearts. They care about how you feel and for me, they changed my life for the better. Individuals at EPI are so dedicated in their professional journeys that once their paths cross with yours, it would only light up your world and put a joyful smile on your face.