As a schizophrenic with a full-time job, one thing I am beginning to see is that a lot depends on how I define myself. I provide technical support at my job, and to the extent that I can portray myself (accurately) as someone who can help, who has information to share that can benefit patrons, I can assume some degree of leadership.
If I were to continually admit to patrons and coworkers that I was mentally ill, or experiencing symptoms, I would find that to be counterproductive, and I might even lose my job. If I did, I would really miss it.
If I can see beyond the illness, and how it tries to define me, and believe that I can provide assistance to others– if I can in fact realize this aim– then I begin to assume again the mantle of health.
In essence, if I can experience what sane people do on a regular basis, take on challenges such as theirs, and try my best to adapt to them without shooting myself in the foot, I can begin to regain clarity and purpose.
I would suggest that this experience could be shared by many mentally ill people– including many who spend most of their time isolated or participating in various forms of leisure.
A program like Ticket To Work (which I was a part of) allows patients to take on employment without immediately losing their benefits. Benefits are gradually tapered off, as the patient begins to participate more actively in the world of work.
I can’t emphasize how much this program helped me, and how important it is for functioning mentally ill people to find a productive and somewhat social means to occupy their time.
It is important for schizophrenics to appear “above ground”– in the real world, as producers, not just as consumers.