Success Story – James Hickman – The Mindful Son
A motivational autobiography about overcoming schizophrenia
The wisdom Hickman acquired through years of trial and error is now at the disposal of anyone who reads these words. Anyone who seeks understanding of what having a mental illness is will discover that in these pages. They prove beyond a doubt that recovery from serious mental illness is obtainable and provide concrete information on how this recovery can be sustained. Those who read this book will know that great obstacles are surmountable with determination and the application of certain principles. This is the story of the ultimate triumph of a family devastated by mental illness over the course of thirty-seven years. Many dark days are recounted in this voyage, until we finally reach the light together.Website: www.themindfulson.com Facebook: facebook.com/themindfulson Q&A with James Hickman
Trade Paperback, $12.95 eBook, $9.99 ASIN: B00BQZA3GY Motivational Autobiography, 329 pages Alpha Centauri Press Second Edition out February 2015
Why did you want to share your story by publishing it in a book? I wrote this story to give hope to the millions of people struggling with mental illness, as well as their family members, and the mental health professionals who work with them. As someone who fits all of these categories, my story provides unique insight into the world of mental health. I wanted to demonstrate that people can overcome enormous obstacles, including schizophrenia. Recovery from serious mental illness is obtainable with the proper mindset. With the right support, people with schizophrenia can have careers and relationships just like anyone else. How did you react to and process your diagnosis of schizophrenia? When I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia I was in denial about it for many years. I was used to being categorized as being like everyone else, and then all of a sudden I was considered as something other than that. Nothing emphasized this otherness like being locked behind a steel door, separated from the rest of society. The stigma associated with the illness took a long time to get used to. Thank goodness society has improved in that area to some degree in the eighteen years since I was diagnosed. My connection to other people that understood the illness saved my life. What are the symptoms of schizophrenia like? Schizophrenia is categorized by three types of symptoms. These are positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms. Positive symptoms add things to a person that they don’t want like hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, or tasting things that aren’t there. Delusions are beliefs that other people don’t have. Some common delusions people with these symptoms have are thinking that the television is sending secret messages to just them or that they are other people like Elvis, some religious figure, or in the mafia. Negative symptoms take away from people things that they don’t want, like joyful feelings. Feelings of depression and lethargy are common negative symptoms. Cognitive symptoms mean that people with Schizophrenia sometimes have difficulty concentrating or expressing themselves clearly. What was the most important turning point in your recovery? The most important turning point in my recovery was when I met a friend with my same illness who was working in a professional capacity as a software engineer. She was quite remarkable actually, having been in medical school when she was diagnosed with the illness. Women are usually diagnosed with the illness at a later age than men, for unknown reasons. After leaving medical school, because of her illness, she then spent four years earning another bachelor’s degree in computer science. Our friendship inspired me in profound ways. She spent as much time as I wanted talking to me about how to take my recovery to the next level. Within one year of our first meeting I had begun work on my master’s degree. Both of our stories are similar in that we started off with one goal, and then our lives changed because of the illness. My original goal was to attend law school. Our recovery was possible because we were able to readjust and formulate new goals which fit with our new set of circumstances. This is not to say that people with schizophrenia can’t be doctors or lawyers, because they can. What I am saying, is that recovery from serious mental illness often requires one to travel on a new trajectory, while remaining goal-oriented.
What are some of the keys to overcoming obstacles in terms of mental health?
I actually have ten principles for overcoming obstacles that I talk about in my speeches to a wide array of audiences. I also plan to include all ten of my principles in the 2nd edition of my book, which will be available in February. My first principle to overcoming obstacles is to always surround yourself with positive people. Avoiding toxic substances as well as toxic relationships is also a vital part of overcoming obstacles. Also never underestimating the power of miracles, or forgetting when they occur is crucial. When I helped to rescue my older brother, also diagnosed with schizophrenia, from homelessness, I found this to be quite miraculous, because I found him pretty soon after beginning my search and he was willing to accept my help for the first time. What are some of the support systems available to people? The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the most important national advocacy and support network for people with mental illness and their families. Anyone facing these challenges should get connected with them right away. Every community has a mental health center which provides medication, counseling, and case management services for people with mental illnesses. I work at the Mental Health Center in my own community, in Huntsville, Alabama. Many medium to large sized cities have consumer run drop-in Centers, where people with mental illness can participate in constructive social activities. I worked with other interested parties to start a drop-in center in my community, in 2001, called Our Place. The people who go there can be exactly who they are and know that they won’t be judged because of their mental illness. There are often smaller support groups which meet on a weekly basis. In my community, NAMI Connection is such a group. There are now NAMI Connection groups in many cities across the country. The new NAMI on Campus groups are also springing up in most large universities. I really wish these had been around when I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia, as a senior at the University of Alabama, but I’m excited that these groups exist now. Colleges and universities are a place where a great many people are first diagnosed with their mental illness.