Medication has helped Jon Buckland’s symptoms, but the voices in his head never go away.
By his description, it’s like being in a loud, busy bar. “It’s like throwing that whole bar, and what you can’t control, into one moment inside your brain during that time that you’re still trying to hold on to conversation normally outside your head,” Buckland said.
These days Buckland’s life is stable, but an ongoing challenge is how to live with a disability and lead a normal life.
Buckland, 31, said he’s made some friends, but it can be a slow process. There are times when he’s trying to figure out how to have a normal conversation with a friend, and it takes a little while to connect. And he accepts that.
Every Friday evening, Buckland’s mother Trez Buckland leads a group for young adults diagnosed with schizophrenia. It starts with dinner – something economical because there isn’t much budget – followed by different activities, like playing group games or making gratitude cards.
Trez Buckland started these Friday night gatherings in 2010. She wanted to create a place that would be fun and safe for people with mental illness.
She said these social gatherings help keep them from feeling isolated. “Try to imagine if you spent all your day, just wherever your home was, in your bedroom, not connecting with people, not having anyone call you, not having anything to do, not having anywhere to go,” she said. “No one would feel great after a little while.”
Trez Buckland said it’s even more difficult for people with schizophrenia or schizo-affective disorder to go out. She said medication helps reduce the hallucinations and other symptoms, but it doesn’t completely eliminate them. That’s why it’s important to have a safe environment where they could develop friendships and eventually build their comfort level.
For Jon Buckland, these gatherings give him a social outlet and support. “Doing the exercises to look for hopefulness and good things and then having the people to communicate with, and eating with people, playing games with people, that in and of itself is support,” he said.
When we first met Jon Buckland in February, we learned how it was a challenge to find the right services, especially a counselor who could help him sort through the emotions and stresses of living with the disorder.
He said the past months have been good. He tries to keep busy with recovery meetings, and the Friday night get-togethers. He said he tries to learn from these different settings. “It’s good for me to see how other people are dealing with things, whether they’re dealing with the same thing as me or not,” he said, “it’s good for mindfulness and wellness to be open to what other people are dealing with.”
The Friday night group has grown so much over the years that Trez Buckland thinks it might be time for a second group, this one for members 36 years and older.