About Neil

Neil was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in January of 2000. He was attending the University of Waterloo majoring in computer science when he began his decline. He was forced to abandon that degree and return to his native Niagara Falls to live with his parents.

Neil’s story though, is not one of tragedy, but one of hope and choosing hope. Thanks to wonderfully supportive friends and family, Neil over time he developed skills to cope with his illness and the side effects of his medication.

After a false start in 2000, he returned to Brock University in spring of 2006. Like many large institutions, they didn’t quite know what to do with him. His marks, due to his illness, were less than stellar.

He walked into an advanced calculus class having not done math in over six years. He finished at the top of the class. Neil’s success continued, with him graduating in spring of 2010 with a B.Sc. in Mathematics and achieving, (in spite of the low grades on his previous transcripts) First Class Standing.

Neil got involved with Mathematics Education research in the second year of his studies and has been the co-author of a peer-reviewed conference proceeding paper and a peer-reviewed paper published in a major international journal. His Honours Thesis, Do Mathematicians Integrate Computer Algebra Systems in University Teaching? Comparing a Literature Review and an International Survey Study has been published in the international journal Computers & Education.

He has continued his path in research and now is nearing completion of his M.Sc. in Mathematics, with a research focus on Mathematics Education. In 2011 he won an Ontario Graduate Scholarship for his Masters in Science. He hopes to continue these studies with a Ph.D. in Mathematics but again with a research focus on Mathematics Education. Recently, Neil won a national scholarship competition as is now the recipient of  the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship for Doctoral Studies.

Neil suffered a relapse of symptoms in late December of 2011. It was the first time in ten years Neil had had to face the full onslaught of his illness. It was caused by stresses in his life that Neil had little or no control over. It was what he most feared. Neil chose hope though again, like he did in the dark days of 2000. He’s still in school and still a Teaching Assistant at the university, though he might have to take another term to complete his degree.

He started this blog on the realization that while his friends and family had a great understanding of what he was going through with his relapse, others in his life needed to understand better what he was going through. He hopes that through this personal journey of his, by being upfront with his illness and sharing his personal experiences with that illness, he might help make a better world not for just himself but for anyone who has a mental illness, or has a friend or family member who does.

When Neil isn’t doing math, education research, or mental health issues, Neil likes to build computers, read about silly conspiracy theories on the internets, read books and talk to his friends and share in their lives.

Neil is a person, on a journey he didn’t choose but on one that has let him meet wonderful people and do wonderful things. He is always thankful for all the people in his life which has made such a thing possible.

You can follow Neil on Twitter (though with school he is sometimes quite busy) @Unprofound_Schi

Neil’s Story has been featured in the St. Catharines Standard and other local SunMedia Newspapers, The Toronto Star, and CHCH News.

For more about Neil’s Story, you can check out the Neil’s Story Category of Posts

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6 Responses to About Neil

  1. Pina says:

    Hey Neil: You forgot to mention that you also create conspiracy theories! LOL

  2. waywardweed says:

    How come this is written in the third person? Did someone else write it?

    • Neil says:

      Hi Waywardweed! To answer your question, I did write this. I wrote it in the third person because there are areas of the blog that I want to (if necessary) point people to with a link and felt for those purposes, third person sounded better. Also this blog just launched so I consider it in pre-alpha (though public) and I am still trying to work everything out with it. I may change a lot around and rewrite more than a few posts.

  3. teelin says:

    Hi Neil, thank you for sharing this blog and posting the link in the Globe and Mail commentary. I will be sure to pass the link on to my friend who does genetic research and also happens to be bipolar. Like you my friend responds successfully to medication. He also (like you) is currently experiencing great emotional stress and hit the ground running to get his dosage upped in a hurry recently when I started feeling quite paranoid about all sorts things.
    It is quite clear that emotions have a great impact on how medications keeps working. I mean hormons change how our body works on a biochemical level and there are these little things called stress hormons.
    I believe the key to your story is that you originate (by all the appearance of it) from an environment of general emotional health and strongly expressed affection. I would love to think that because of this your personality once put back in charge with the help of medication – is able to make good choices – because you know you are loved.
    I get the impression that just like “ordinary” people feel stressed when they are isolated, friendless, underexercised and hopeless – so would someone with mental illness.
    So having all those good things in one’s life can be a stabilizer.
    I really feel a sense of healing when I read stories like yours because sadly I was raised by a mentally ill mother who remained undiagnosed and untreated until her 70s. It was a deeply traumatising experience and I basically ran away at 15 completely heart broken by it all.
    In th last 2 years I have come across more and more people who are mentally ill and who are open about it and successfully treated. It is a strange experience, but I find it deeply healing to be around them. It is as though I am given a perspecitve on how things could have been otherwise and though they did not turn out that way for my mother it somehow eases my pain to see that there is another way. So for that I thank you, Neil.
    Keep on plugging away and many good wishes for you and those that care about you.
    Good luck on your academic journey! It is a very competitive environment you are in and post-secondary institutions still have a lot to learn about how they treat students, faculty and staff members with mental illness. Forge the way!

    • Neil says:

      I agree 100% that emotions (and emotional health) have a great impact on my health. I also think that the stable environment that I have has helped give me purpose and reasons to fight when I have faced adversity. My success is due in part to my abilities and my determination to live a “normal” life, but my friends, family and colleagues have given me strength on even the blackest of days and my potential might very not well have been realized. Their trust and faith in me is something I wish I could give any family that struggles with mental illness.

      I can’t give that, but I can make a small difference with sharing my story. I have heard stories like your own. Unfortunately there is a lot of tragedy with mental illness, especially when people don’t wish to admit there is an issue. My hope is that if we talk about mental illness more, if we talk about the tragedy but also talk about the hope, that maybe more people will be willing to seek treatment. I am glad that my story in some small way helps you.

  4. teelin says:

    Neil – thank you for your reply and thank you again for sharing your story.
    When I read through my comment again past the usual minor (nevertheless needlessly embarassing) grammatical mistakes I noticed a major brainfart typo that kind of really changed the intended meaning.
    “…and hit the ground running to get his dosage upped in a hurry recently when[ I ] ! started feeling quite paranoid about all sorts things.”
    Was definitely meant to read: “… and hit the ground running to get his dosage upped in a hurry recently when HE started feeling quite paranoid about all sorts things.”
    Really the whole point there was that my admirable friend figured out way before everyone else that he was not only under severe stress but transcending to quite a different state of mind beyond the understandably frazzled. All the power to him!
    All the best, Neil!

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