I’m Denise Green and I enjoy living life to the fullest. I am in my 50s. I have four children and a husband that served in the military. We have been together for more than 30 years. I am a cook. I like raising my own food and vegetables. I am learning to be a homesteader. I am currently raising chickens, ducks, turkeys, cattle, and pigs. I have hopes to be self-sustaining in the future.
I also live with a mental health condition called schizophrenia.
The night that I heard my first voice, I felt it was schizophrenia because of what I had learned from TV about people with schizophrenia. They said, “Oh, this person has schizophrenia,” and they put them into an asylum. The stigma worsened my condition and it became a barrier to getting help.
There were other things that made accepting my condition difficult. I saw my mom grow up with her condition. I saw people around her dismiss her or treat her differently. I saw her going in and out of hospitals. I saw her when she was at her worst and was delusional. I also saw the changes in her when she was on her medication. I didn’t want to become like my mom. I didn’t want to be homeless. I didn’t want to be an outcast. I didn’t want people to be afraid of me. I didn’t want my children taken away. I didn’t want my thoughts to be dismissed.
When I was diagnosed, it was difficult. It was a long battle. I ended up fighting with my husband and doctors. To me, it didn’t make sense that they could know what was going on in my brain without looking at my brain.
I got a CAT scan and the doctors compared it to another person’s scan with the same condition. Seeing this satisfied me for a little while, but I still fought treatment. I was hospitalized several times after that and had to be court mandated to take medication.
After about 15 years of living with my condition, the doctors were able to help me come to terms. I became more self-aware. One last time, my doctor let me off my medication. I managed for about three months until I started noticing symptoms. I went back to my doctor and said, “No, I think I need to go back on my medication.” That’s when I accepted I would have to be on medication for the rest of my life.
Years later, I feel blessed that I have schizophrenia and can hear things going on in my mind. I learned to turn it into something beautiful. I learned to listen to the good things. I have learned to control the negative things and argue back. Because of those conversations, I’ve become stronger in self-advocating. It actually helped me find a voice for myself.
What I’ve learned in life is that as soon as you tell people that you have a condition, they expect less of you. Achieving more is how I break stigma. I’ve worked in Peer Support, helping others through their journey, and now serve others as an Assistant Social Worker in the Mental Health department at the Shasta County Health & Human Services Agency.
Being able to keep my family is one of my biggest goals in life, because I feared losing them so much. I am blessed with three boys, and a daughter who’s the youngest. I wanted to teach her to be a strong woman. They’ve all attended college and are self-sufficient.
Hope is accepting dreams other people may feel are grandeur and extreme. Those dreams are possible if we set ourselves up for success, and the way we set ourselves up for success is learning how to achieve those goals on a daily basis. It helps to appreciate the journey along the way. Sometimes, it even makes it easier to accept the bad days.
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