Charlie Feldman started to experience paranoid schizophrenia while in college. Like many other people these days, he has been able to recover from this illness through such things as medication, support from both peers and professionals, work, volunteer work, and spirituality. Charlie has written his recovery story to document what it was like going through the illness, as well as to give people an understanding that recovery is possible. While still living with this illness, Charlie is no longer affected by the symptoms. Throughout the illness, and the hard times leading to recovery, Charlie’s main interest was in finding meaning in life, which he now finds through his spirituality and community.
To read Charles Feldman’s story from the beginning, go here.
Editor’s note: Having survived episodes of his illness where he was a danger to himself, Charles Feldman deals with the challenge of finding a place and purpose in the world.
Now that I did not have the symptoms of my illness, my life did not blossom right away. For the past seven years, I had not been able to socialize with people because every time someone approached me as a friend, I would get mixed signals, and think they were part of the conspiracy.
Since I was not able to socialize as a child due to shyness, I had missed learning how to socialize in my formative years. Now that I was in a new apartment in a big city, I felt very lonely, isolated and depressed.
I started going to a day program, which at that time, met only three afternoons a week, and going to a therapy group.
In the therapy group I would complain that I did not know what to say to people, and the therapists would say I was doing fine in expressing myself. Perhaps it was the sheltered nature of the group that allowed me to start learning how to relate with others.
One of the social workers in the group, Judy Ferris, would remain in the group to the present day. I noticed that when people would get angry at her, she would not get angry back at them, but would respond with empathy. I had never experience this before. My major influences, my parents, the Trotskyists, and Dr. McGurk, would never hesitate to express anger. With the new therapy group, I learned to empathize.
My major problem at this point was an identity crisis, since I had lost my assurance in an anarchist world. In the day program, although I felt that some of the classes were not as challenging as I would have liked, I was able to get out of the house and learn to better relate with people.
Most of the early years back in Providence were spent lying in bed or going for long walks. Eventually the day program increased to where it was operational, at one point, for seven days a week, before cutbacks.
I got a full-time job in a mailroom for a few years. At one point, I started feeling that some of the temporary workers were undercover agents.
After all, I was associated with the radical movement, and had joined a group called the Church of the Subgenius, which I sent away for by mail, thinking that they were the spiritual answer to the Yippies.
Whether there were any undercover agents or not, I was taken off the Prolixin and put on something that didn’t work. I took a leave of absence from the job when the symptoms came back from being off the Prolixin.
Then, complaining of anxiety, I was put on Klonopin, which made me really relaxed, but also made me sleep for thirteen hours a day. Every time I tried going off the Klonopin, I would get anxious. No one told me it was habit forming, so I didn’t know what was going on. By now, I was back on the Prolixin, and scheduled to go back to work.
The night before I was scheduled to go back, I vowed not to go back on the Klonopin, because I knew I couldn’t work sleeping thirteen hours a day. I didn’t get any sleep whatsoever that night, and when I went in to work the next day, I couldn’t function, so I quit.
I then took an overdose of the Klonopin, which was my third and last suicide attempt. Previously, I had often been asking my nurse for euthanasia when I saw her. I was able to stay out of the hospital during my whole relapse, but I lost the job.
Then I started attending the day program daily, and got involved in The Providence Center’s Consumer Advocacy Council. We would meet with The Providence Center’s administration, and after one meeting the founding CEO, Charles Maynard, asked me to be on the board of directors. That led to me being on the board, where I am now an emeritus member.