For Tanara, she has always had a happy personality. She loves getting dressed up, music, and bonding with her family. She was just an average girl! She’d been pretty peaceful, but no one would have thought that if they knew her just before she went to jail in 2011. She was in an argument fighting with a friend over a parking spot. Her family was confused about this. She didn’t know why she would do this. It wasn’t her real self. She was going to college and working at a restaurant at the age of 23 in 2007. She was an amazing server. She never used a notepad, she remembered it all.
It all changed in 2008, though. Tanara started feeling paranoid, seeing things, and even hearing voices. By 2009, she was put in a hospital. The doctors thought she might be bipolar, or just have a mood disorder, so they put her on multiple medications. She says; “Doctors thought I had a mood disorder because I didn’t tell them about my paranoia, or about suddenly hearing voices in my head.”
When she was released from the hospital, she stopped taking those medications. She wasn’t experiencing the symptoms anymore, so she didn’t think she had to take them anymore. She was no longer going to school, or taking classes, but eventually she felt well enough to get a job again, but as a painter, painting walls and buildings for a camp.
Tanara still thought about her strange symptoms, though. When she started feeling those symptoms again, almost a year later, her family convinced her to see a psychiatric hospital. When she went to see the doctors, they still thought she had a mood disorder because she still didn’t tell them all of her symptoms. She didn’t tell them about being paranoid, or hearing voices in her head. She just acted like her normal self, happy, and cheerful, making them think it was all just a manic episode.
The doctors gave her different medications, but when she was released from the hospital, she started getting more symptoms, like twitching. She wanted to go back to her old job as a server, but she couldn’t because she was twitching so much. So she stopped taking her medication again. Around Christmas, Tamara’s grandmother had gotten really sick. When Tanara went to see her, she saw all the tubes and machines hooked up to her. She got really upset, and eventually went into hysterics, making her have to get escorted out. Just after that, she had her altercation with her friend and went to jail. She was angry, biter, and her symptoms were acting up.
When she was discharged from jail, the judge told Tanara to go to a psychiatric hospital. She was resentful and nervous, but eventually talked to one of their psychiatrists who made her feel comfortable. Tanara opened up about her symptoms for the first time, about the voices, paranoia, etc.. The psychiatrist told her “You are battling schizophrenia.” Tanara didn’t even know what that was.
The psychiatrist suggested that after she was off all her medications and was released from the hospital, Tanara should start a different treatment for schizophrenia. After discussing the concept, Tanara agreed to do the treatment.
Meanwhile, Tanara was doing well at the hospital, making friends, and learning about what she had. She participated in the weekly activities, and learned how to get into the social habits again. She also learned what some of her triggers were. She stayed at the hospital for 3 months. She had an especially hard time with her birthday.
She was sent home in November, and it was a big accomplishment. She was so happy to finally be well enough. Tanara started the rehabilitation program and the new medication. She was working at her goals, and eventually her symptoms were under control, and she was feeling a lot better. She went for walks, and started doing the things she used to love again. She called her family, and went shopping, listened to music and more.
Tanara says, “I will never forget what I went through, or what it took for me to get here. I don’t take any of it for granted. I consider myself an advocate for people who don’t have a voice.” She worked at a restaurant for a while, but knew it wasn’t her real dream.
Her dream was to work at a real job at an office, so she applied for a job, and she got it!
Tanara is now working at the same job, helping people with schizophrenia. She thought she never would have gotten here, but her experience taught her patience. Tanara is so happy for her story, and is grateful for this. She wants others with mental illness to be confident, too. She wants to help them through the diagnosis and their own problems. She wants everyone to never give up. Tanara’s experience has helped many people and she is not going to stop there.
Here’s how, a story that began with grief can end in complete happiness.