Dealing with Schizophrenia: My Path to Understanding

By Maria Charina Pinky Rodriguez

I always wanted to understand my illness, be with other sufferers of schizophrenia and have the support of a psychiatrist. Most of all, however, I wanted to be close to my family - I have a sister and three brothers. I am only close to my mother who, unfortunately, has developed Alzheimer's disease.

I consider my doctor, Dr. Marissa de Guzman, my best friend. When she invited me to attend a two-day conference hosted by the World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation - Philippines, it was an honour to accept. I asked my sister, who was the first of my siblings to reach out to me, if she would come with me to the conference. The World Fellowship for Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders President at the time, Jim Crowe, was one of the speakers at the conference. This was my first introduction to WFSAD.

The conference and speakers were so inspiring to my sister that she decided to form a family support group. With the help of my doctor, she did just that. I met a friend who also suffered with schizophrenia and we found others to join our group. We were now five in number.

Dr. de Guzman was the organizer and visited our group to speak about schizophrenia, despite the four-hour drive. My sister acted as the leader for our group. Her role was to find community links and speak to family members. Dr. de Guzman and my sister both spoke to the rest of the family. These conversations all went very well.

My problems began when my sister had to leave the Philippines to be with her child overseas. We continued to meet as a group, but we could not find anyone to take over the position my sister had vacated. I was working through depression with my doctor and unfortunately our support group could not continue.

To deal with my depression, my doctor suggested that the solution could be in prayer. My prayers were slowly answered through the internet. I was able to find a lot of information on schizophrenia and gained a better understanding of my illness. I also used email to communicate with my brother and sister abroad, as well as with WFSAD. I was impressed with the responses WFSAD sent me and the fact that they said my sister loves me and cares for my well-being. This really made me happy.

When WFSAD sent me pamphlets, I felt like a real person again. I immediately went to see two of my past local psychiatrists and gave them copies. They liked them too and are willing to give us referrals. One of the psychiatrists is part of another world organization and invited me to their conference. I also now felt comfortable enough to approach a friend of my sister, who is a pediatrician licensed to prescribe anti-psychotic drugs. She is also a family member and wanted to renew her commitment as a leader. I had found a replacement for my sister for our group.

Throughout all this, I am starting to become closer to my father and brothers as well. My mother is also getting better. One of my brothers was so impressed with my recovery that he suggested I speak to the public about how family members like himself can help their relative who suffers from mental illness. My whole family no longer feels shame. Neither do I.

Maria Charina Pinky Rodriguez