Overcoming Schizophrenia: Amber Pillars

Amber Pillars had a wonderful childhood, filled with friends and family. As a child, she never imagined that she would develop schizophrenia.

In May of 2004, following her college graduation, Amber relocated to a new city, began a new job in Christian ministry, and moved into her first apartment. Things seemed perfect. But Amber began a steady decline. At first, she showed symptoms of depression. It would quickly spin out of control, and into psychosis.

Amber remembers Thursday, December 9, 2004 as the day when she barricaded herself in a closet, convinced that her coworker was breaking into her apartment. She called her mother from inside the closet. When Amber’s mother arrived, she drove Amber to their hometown doctor, where she was diagnosed with depression. Her mother questioned the diagnosis.

Eight days later, Amber’s symptoms had worsened. She was admitted into the psychiatric unit of a hospital. At the hospital, for the first time, she began to hear harsh and verbally abusive voices in her mind.

A few days before Christmas, she left the hospital against medical advice. Over the holidays, Amber believed she did not need the antipsychotic medication, and she refused to take it. Her symptoms grew worse.

On January 12, 2005, Amber was readmitted into inpatient care. At the hospital, she refused oral medicine and was given injections. The doctors experimented with several medicines over several weeks, but none of them kept her hallucinations and delusions away.

Soon after, Amber was transferred to a larger research hospital where her family hoped she would get better care. In the hospital, she suffered from severe side effects of partially effective medications. Her situation quickly felt hopeless.

Amber also remembers the day when she was well enough to transfer to outpatient care, February 12, 2005. She had finally found a medication regimen that worked for her, with minimal side effects. As Amber continued taking medicine, going to see a psychiatrist, working with a counselor, and accepting her diagnosis, her outgoing personality started to emerge again. She relied on supportive friends from church and a loving and accepting family as she fought her symptoms, and finally won.

Fall of 2007 was a time of recovery and reflection for Amber. Her church encouraged her to make a video spotlighting her journey. In the summer of 2008, Amber chose to participate in both long-term and a short-term research studies. Through both the video and the research studies, she sought to help others, and to give back.

Amber landed a part time job and moved out of her parents’ house into another apartment in fall of 2008. Today, in 2018, Amber works full-time, assisting special need students one on one. She lives in her own condo, enjoys meeting new friends, and plays volleyball.

Amber’s experiences teach her that people who truly care about her will not define her by the mental illness. When Amber looks back over the last fourteen years, she is amazed about how much she has overcome. Today, she doesn’t just survive, she thrives.

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