Jack’s Story to Recovery
Jack’s story begins in Montreal, where he was sent for work in advertising. Jack looked forward to living in a new place that might offer new adventures. He found an apartment to rent, and after a week he settled in nicely.
Jack found the Montreal night life very attractive. Night after night was spent dancing and partying with friends for hours at a time. Along with the music, friends, and dancing, another aspect of the night life culture Jack discovered was the drug scene, which turned out to be very inviting. Jack indulged in these activities using them as an escape from reality and a way to cope with unexplained mental health symptoms – symptoms such as extreme stress, lack of sleep, no appetite, constant anxiety and hearing voices.
The street drugs did not help Jack, in fact they exacerbated the symptoms and suddenly Jack couldn’t perform daily work or even function normally in everyday life. Many days were spent in bed sleeping off the partying from the night before. A vicious cycle of drugs and late nights added up to isolating and avoiding friends on the phone and in person. He began losing the motivation to do anything. Jack kept up with this destructive lifestyle, until it all came crumbling down.
After Montreal the next place Jack was to go for work was Regina. When he got here, life took him onto a ledge – not just a metaphorical one, but a literal one, that would have led to his death. Someone was looking out for Jack that day; it was a woman who stopped him from jumping and immediately drove Jack to the hospital.
Jack was admitted into the psychiatric ward by the psychiatrist on duty. Jack spent time in the hospital getting assessed and evaluated, and eventually he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, major depression, and anxiety. Jack was quite shocked at his mental health diagnosis, so the doctor took the time to caringly explain it. It took the doctor three weeks to get Jack’s medication properly adjusted to help with his specific symptoms and mental health problems.
Another 2 weeks were spent at the hospital for the day program* that offers services to patients who have had a recent crisis or feel their anxiety or depression is worsening. When Jack was finished at the hospital, he was a man on a road to recovery.
Although Jack never mentioned his diagnosis to his family because he felt they wouldn’t be able to understand, Jack shared his diagnosis with friends and received unwavering support. He also signed up with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Regina Branch Members Club for additional support.
In learning to manage his mental health, Jack found that taking medication regularly and properly helped tremendously. He also learned to use new coping skills to handle everyday life situations. Jack used the information he learned from the day program at the hospital; he spent more time talking to friends and receiving their support; he obtained a good psychiatrist whom he sees every 3 months; he received constant support from CMHA; he started taking time to relax; playing video games; long walks with his dogs, talking to his mom and cooking his favourite meals.
Instead of the night life, Jack chose to enjoy other things in life such as watching sports like curling, hockey and baseball. A lot of time is spent with his 3 dogs as Jack finds the unconditional love a great form of therapy. Jack’s love of cooking and baking overtook his life with meals of ribs, spaghetti, perogies and desserts of cinnamon buns, brownies and cookies.
Jack’s life is different now and all for the better. Jack has energy and motivation to get him out of bed every day. He enjoys a more active lifestyle with employment, meeting up with friends for coffee or just getting out for a walk.
Throughout his recovery journey, Jack learned that drugs were not the answer to cope or escape reality. He learned he’s not the only one with schizophrenia, depression and anxiety and that people with these mental health concerns can cope and lead very happy and productive lives.
Jack thought he had lost all hope but thanks to the woman who saved his life, Jack is able to share his story of journey and recovery in hopes it will help someone else to recognize symptoms and to seek help before it’s too late.
Jack’s story is also a thank you to the woman who saved his life.
Interview with Jack
What mental health problem or mental illness are you in recovery from?
Schizophrenia, depression and anxiety, was diagnosed 7 years ago in Regina
What were your signs and symptoms?
Major depression, stressed out all the time, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, lots of anxiety, hearing voices, no motivation to do anything, sleep all day, lay in bed all day.
What factors do you think were associated with your mental health problems or mental illness?
No motivation, didn’t want to go anywhere or talk to anyone, isolating, didn’t even want to talk on the phone or have any contact with people
What was your life like before the onset of your mental health problem or mental illness?
Used drugs to cope, mental illness probably went untreated for 20 years, Lived in Nova Scotia but travelled to Montreal for work, lived alone in an apartment, spent most nights out partying and doing drugs, dancing for 8 hours straight, used drugs to escape from reality
What effect did your mental health problem or mental illness have on your life?
No ambition to do anything, stayed in bed all day, drugs made life worse as this was all he thought about, the drug scene in Montreal was very inviting, daily abuse of drugs led to not sleeping properly, no appetite, feels the drugs might have led to the schizophrenia or brought it to the surface.
How did your family and friends respond to your mental health problem or mental illness?
His friends were very understanding and accepting and supportive, his dad never knew because he passed away 11 years ago and wasn’t diagnosed until 7 years ago. His mom wouldn’t understand as she suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Never told his older brother and doesn’t want to.
What was helpful in supporting your work toward recovery?
Workshop at the hospital for 3 weeks helped with coping skills, talking to friends and having their support, good doctors and the membership at the Members Club.
What are your coping strategies? How do you manage your mental health problem or mental illness?
Medication, relaxation, video games, long walks with his dogs, hanging out with his dogs, talking to him mom
What do you enjoy?
Watching sports: hockey, curling and baseball, going for walks, hanging out with his dogs, cooking. He likes to cook and bake, cinnamon buns, perogies, pasta dishes and bbq ribs.
What is your life like now?
Much better, more active, motivation to get out of bed and accomplish daily activities, more friends made at the club, working at the club.
What positive life experiences happened during your recovery journey?
Grew closer to his mom, realization drugs were not the answer.
What have you learned?
Drugs don’t work for coping or escaping reality, he’s not the only one with schizophrenia and the doctor explained this diagnosis. Dogs are good therapy as they provide unconditional love.
When did hope come into your life?
When the medication started to work and he had more energy and a better understanding of his coping strategies. The dogs help a lot but so does the medication. He will be required to continue medication for the rest of his life.
Any other thoughts or comments:
When he was admitted to the hospital and into the psych ward he was hesitant and didn’t know what was happening, thankfully the nurses were very thoughtful and kind and had no problem explaining the situation. This made his 3-week hospital stay easier. He has a psychiatrist whom he sees every 3 months and he really likes this doctor. As he said before, the medication works very well for him. He didn’t experience any side effects and the anxiety meds make him very mellow.