Rebecca Chamaa

Writer and Wife: Rebecca Chamaa

See Rebecca’s condensed story in Newsletter Issue 5

Rebecca Chamaa graduated with a liberal arts degree from Evergreen State College in 1989. Originally from Washington state, she attended an American high school in Cairo, Egypt, where she met her future husband.

Following her college graduation, Rebecca began her career as a social worker, in which she thrived from 1989 to 1993. However, in 1993, at 28, Rebecca began to struggle with paranoia. Believing that her food contained poison and that people in her life were conspiring against her, her symptoms worsened. When Rebecca’s mother and aunt noticed her paranoia and that she could not sit still, they convinced Rebecca to obtain a psychiatric evaluation.

Rebecca went voluntarily to the emergency room and started inpatient treatment in the psych ward. She was initially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her doctors began her on an older antipsychotic medication. It helped significantly with her symptoms and would keep her stable for most of the next 13 years, with a few instances of psychosis. From 1993 to 2006, Rebecca was busy with many jobs as a library technician, marketing coordinator, salesperson, and caterer.

Following her marriage in 1998, Rebecca and her husband purchased a condo in the Los Angeles area. She and her husband have enjoyed traveling the world throughout their marriage, including trips to Paris, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai. In 2006, they took six months off to tour the United States, and on their return, they settled in San Diego.

That same year, one of Rebecca’s doctors believed she had no mental illness and convinced her to discontinue all her medications. After stopping her medications, Rebecca became acutely psychotic, and her symptoms lasted for several months. Finally, after several medication changes, Rebecca began a newer medication she takes today. Her new doctors diagnosed her with chronic paranoid schizophrenia.

On medication, Rebecca again resumed an everyday personal and professional life. She landed another job as a social worker, where she worked from 2006 to 2011.

In 2015, Rebecca found the courage to share how she was preparing to jump off a Seattle bridge when two strangers interfered and persuaded her to return to safety. Rebecca sought to find these strangers and thank them. Her story and a call to find these strangers was on the site of People Magazine on December 24, 2015.

Although Rebecca lives with symptoms of schizophrenia and an anxiety disorder daily, she finds purpose by sharing her story about living with schizophrenia. She has written articles for Teen Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Glamour, and Women’s Day. She writes regularly for the finance section of Insider.

Today, Rebecca aims to start conversations about schizophrenia in the mainstream media. Her most recent article was in the personal section of Huffington Post. She also works as a public speaker for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and talks about life with schizophrenia to law enforcement, nurses, therapists, and other people who work with those with a mental illness.

Rebecca considers herself a lifelong learner and recently completed a certificate program in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University. Although her symptoms give her significant limitations to working full-time, she continues to seek out work that is both meaningful and gives her a sense of purpose.

Rebecca’s motto and motivation come from the saying, “Life is both tragic and beautiful.” She finds that statement to be true for her in her journey to live successfully with the symptoms of schizophrenia.

You can contact Rebecca at

Rebecca’s recent article on