Living with schizophrenia

A photo of Lindsay Thompson sitting at a table and drawing."Drawing is both an escape from the world and a way to connect to it," says Lindsay Thompson. "It connects me to the world outside my mind and at the same time access my inner thoughts."

For Lindsay Thompson, art has become her therapy - her happy place - as she continues to cope with and manage her mental illness. At the age of 17, Lindsay was diagnosed with schizophrenia and
obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) at Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital (at the time York Central)."I had a great amount of guilt with my diagnosis," says Lindsay. "I felt that I was a disappointment to my family, that I did something wrong, and even more so, that I was a bad person and didn't deserve help. There were days when I was even saddened that I woke up in the morning," she recounts. Lindsay's diagnosis significantly affected her parents, her sisters and brother who experienced their own level of pain watching their loved one go through an unimaginable and life-altering mental illness.

It was with the support and encouragement of her family that Lindsay sought treatment at Mackenzie Health when she needed it, knowing that in times of crisis she would be helped by compassionate, caring and devoted caregivers who understood what she was experiencing - hearing voices, pacing the hallway, having thoughts of self- harm - and who truly wanted to see her heal.

From the nurses to the occupational and recreational therapists, each of their interactions with Lindsay made a tangible difference in her recovery. "No matter how many times I come to Mackenzie Health, the staff in the mental health unit are so friendly, warm and comforting in times of distress - just what I need to guide me through a crisis," says Lindsay. "They always remember my name, which I find fascinating given the number of patients they see on a daily basis. It makes me feel welcomed in a safe space," she says.

Lindsay also emphasizes how important it is to take things one step at a time. "While getting up in the morning can seem like a daunting task some days, and one that doesn't really seem necessary at the time, do it, get up and face the day. Believe in forward motion, taking one step at a time. It's worth it."

Lindsay is 37 years old now, and while she experiences good days and challenging ones, she's committed to living a fulfilling and rewarding life. With her family by her side, cheering her on every step of the way, she knows that her mental illness doesn't define her future.

Lindsay credits Mackenzie Health for playing a vital role in her journey towards wellness. She wanted to share her story so that our community is aware, if they aren't already, how fortunate we are to have exemplary mental health care at Mackenzie Health.

One of her drawings currently resides in the mental health unit at Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital, left to the community of caregivers as a constant visual reminder of how lives can be transformed with patience, kindness and sheer devotion to care.