Overcoming Schizophrenia: Sandy Dimiterchik
I never expected to develop schizophrenia. I also never expected that after receiving the diagnosis, I would be given so many opportunities to help others who have also been impacted by schizophrenia.
I battled mental disorders since junior high school, mainly suffering from depression. I thought it was my lot in life. In college, I began anti-depressants and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in graduate school. Then, after bouncing around full-time and part-time work, I was hospitalized in 2008 and diagnosed with schizophrenia. The world made more sense with that diagnosis, considering my severe paranoia and suicidal ideation.
My life improved a couple of years later when I began clozapine. This antipsychotic medication eliminated the paranoia, voices, and suicidal ideation I was continuing to experience. I had not expected the clozapine to make a significant difference, but it did in a few weeks, just as my therapist, who also was a nurse practitioner, had expected. Of course, I had to get used to having my blood drawn weekly, and then only monthly. I also needed to sleep at least 10 hours each night. Unfortunately, for me, the dosage prescribed did not suppress my symptoms for a full 24 hour period. My psychiatrist provided an additional clozapine pill to take in the afternoon, which eliminated most of these symptoms. I have been recreating my life since then.
Today, I am certified as a peer support specialist in the state of Louisiana and as a career coach by PARW/CC, which stands for Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. I hold a B.S. in psychology from Louisiana State University, earned in 1997, and am currently working on my Master’s Degree online in Academic Advising from Kansas State University.
In 2013, I found SARDAA (Schizophrenia And Related Disorders Alliance of America) and its free support groups for people diagnosed with schizophrenia or related disorders. These groups are called SA or Schizophrenia Alliance: Psychosis Support and Acceptance. The Blue Book used in these support groups provided me with a new goal: (From the Blue Book, 2019 edition, page 24) “Perhaps the most obvious sign of recovering is the reduction and control of symptoms to the point of permitting one to have the ability to find and keep steady and structured activity.”
In 2015, after volunteering as a grant writer for SARDAA, I was awarded the Volunteer of the Year. A couple of years later, I decided to face my fears of being “found out” and went through certification as a peer support specialist, learning to tell my story to help others and aid them in finding resources. I was hired by SARDAA to coordinate the SA groups. In July 2020, I was promoted to Director of Community Engagement. I am currently the Director of Community Engagement there and have worked at SARDAA for over three years.
Today, I also help people with schizophrenia and related diagnoses find work, whether part-time or full-time. Personally, work provides structure in my day, and even if part-time, still gives me confidence knowing that I contribute to society.
I was once told by one psychiatrist that I would never be able to work full-time again. I took that comment as a challenge, and began working more hours each couple of years, hoping that eventually I would be able to prove him wrong. Once I finish my Master’s Degree, I plan to apply for full-time academic advising positions with universities and community colleges. I recently went on two interviews with the same community college for an advising position. This was my first interview for a full-time position in over ten years. I didn’t get the job, but the interview process showed me various areas where I need to grow.
I am confident that my broad experience mentoring others will help me to excel as I work with people from many different backgrounds.
I am grateful for my own recovery every day and hope to see others rebuild their lives as I have. In the future, I hope to expand my advocacy and continue to make a difference.