Monday, May 14, 2012

Published Author Battles Schizophrenia

By William Jiang, MLS

New York City Voices helped me along the way

New York City Voices was founded by Ken Steele in 1995, 17 years ago. I was recruited by Dan Frey in early 2000, shortly after Ken died and left Dan at the helm of the newspaper. I shared my own personal story of recovery at that point in 2000 with the paper, and now, in 2012, my personal story of recovery continues.

A lot has happened in my life since then. When Dan recruited me I was fresh out of library school with my Masters, and I was excited to work with a newspaperman. The internship at City Voices was a good idea to get some job experience. Dan got me to work as a grant writer, webmaster, advertising manager, and freelance journalist. I parlayed the City Voices experience into my first career position as an adjunct lecturer at Kingsborough Community College as a librarian. The Kingsborough Community College position led to a seven-year position at the prestigious New York State Psychiatric Institute as the chief librarian of their Patient and Family Library. At New York State Psychiatric Institute I wrote my autobiography titled A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope, which, recently, has outsold Sylvia Nasar’s A Beautiful Mind on I am now in the process of returning to university part-time to study German at Hunter College, and to keep myself busy. I am currently tutoring people who seek further knowledge in Spanish, French, math, Photoshop, video editing, and book design.

However, life has not been an easy, straight road. I continue to struggle with clinical depression, physical aches and pains that I have accumulated over the years, as well as the schizophrenia that I have had since 1992. I was lucky to survive 2011 as I had two hospitalizations in November that involved suicidal ideas and urges. In November I welcomed the institutional halls of Columbia Presbyterian in White Plains because in that hospital was a measure of safety. I was afraid of what I might do to myself if let go without a medication regimen that did not work. After the mood stabilizer lithium failed, I was scared that nothing would work. The doctors were going to try Depakote on me. After an empowering conversation with a mental health therapy aide, I convinced my doctors to try me on Saphris or Fanapt as a mood stabilizer. My doctor put me on Saphris as a mild mood stabilizer, and the good news is that in addition to regular exercise, the Saphris seems to be helping me to stabilize my mood.

Another thing that has helped me, over the years, is my power of insight and my ability to fine-tune my medicines, with my doctor’s ok, to keep me out of the hospital and out of trouble. For some odd reason, when I start losing touch with reality, I sense it happening. I am able to take a little more of my antipsychotic, Navane, when this happens, and by using this technique, I have been able to keep myself out of the hospital for many years. This apparent control I have over my medication and neurochemistry has been a blessing for me because I’ve been able to take less of the antipsychotic than otherwise, and I have had the benefit of less sedation than if I were on a consistently higher dose. I feel that I work as a team player with my psychiatrists in my recovery. The game plan is to stay in therapy and keep an eye on my medication so we can beat the unbeatable opponent that is in my head: the schizophrenia. Although, I have not beaten schizophrenia for over 19 years now, neither has my competitor beaten me, and we continue to play the game. I feel I am playing as a worthy opponent against a formidable diagnosis.

My great regret is that I have had few girlfriends over the years and that none of them have stuck. That is the one thing in life that I feel that I am missing right now: a good girlfriend to share the highs and lows, the good times and the bad, in this drama that is life. I know I’ll meet her someday, and the figurative hearth burns with a steady, warm flame.

In the meantime, I work, I hang out with friends, and I study. I salute New York City Voices for their continued role as the oldest, and largest free newspaper for the people of New York City who suffer from the slings and arrows of mental illness.

Note: The author does not suggest that you manage your own medications as he does unless you talk to your psychiatrist and decide together that it is a safe and practical thing to do. As always, the medical advice of your doctor or your pharmacist should be heeded. To contact Will email

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