• Courtney Phillips

My story of healing – Randall Law

Updated: Sep 2, 2019

(Story updates in italics as up August 2019 are below.)

As an adult survivor of child sexual abuse, Randall Law is learning to live after being diagnosed schizophrenia and how that has affected his life and career. He has found a way to not let it change his outlook by focusing on the positive. He copes by writing, working on renovating his new house and working through his trauma with his therapist.

Learn more about his story of healing below:

Tell me about yourself I am a lot of things. I am a father of three and a husband to one amazing woman. I’m a sports fanatic slightly gone to seed and a decent musician who plays the saxophone, guitar, and piano. I performed in theater when I was younger, and one of my greatest accomplishments was playing the lead role in Les Misérables. I am a nerd who read Jules Verne in the second grade and, as a result, hatched a plan to raise the Titanic. It didn’t work. I love biology and graduated with an undergraduate degree in that pursuit before becoming a physician assistant. I love practicing medicine even though I am unable to do so at this time. My wife and I are currently renovating an Idaho farmhouse built in 1910 even though we know nothing about construction.

My story I revere Lou Gehrig. I feel, as he did, that I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth. But like Lou Gehrig, I caught a bad break.

As a child, I was sexually abused by a family friend. Justice was ultimately served, but the damage was already done. I embarked on a life-long battle with mental illness. During high school, I began hearing voices, which I kept to myself. I eventually became suicidal and was hospitalized. I didn’t tell anyone about the voices -- I didn’t understand them. I received medications that stripped all emotion. I gained 40 pounds. My teeth even started to chatter. I finally quit cold turkey and learned to manage my symptoms alone.

I met a great girl, and she married me despite my flaws. I stabilized somewhat and became a physician assistant. I had achieved the stability I so desperately craved. But that crumbled the day I began practicing medicine. I stopped sleeping and quit eating. I rarely left the confines of my home. I couldn’t even hear my patients over the voices in my own head; I began to listen to the voices but knew I needed help.

At that time, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and lost my job. At that point, I was hospitalized for my illness. And after nearly a month in the hospital, I started learning to live again. I can’t practice medicine right now. On good days, I work on renovating a 1910 farmhouse. On bad days, I write. I write when I can’t sleep. I write when I can’t cope. I write when I feel like I can’t go on. I don’t know what to do with my life, but I want to tell my story. I want others to know they aren’t alone. I want to know I’m not alone.

What happened to cause your anguish?

I was brainwashed before I was sexually abused. The realization of what happened hit suddenly, and I was devastated. I agreed to testify against the perpetrator and found myself seated immediately beside him outside the courtroom. In that moment, I experienced the sheer terror that he would turn and end my life in an instant. That terror persisted every night for years. I would stare out my window into the darkness waiting for him to come for me. Testifying against him in court was worse. His defense attorney twisted my words, and I broke down on the stand. Something snapped in my mind that day. I’ve never been the same.

The world seemed like an ugly place after I was abused. I wasn’t suicidal, but I wanted to cease to exist. Existence was pain, and I just wanted the pain to end. The depression and anxiety I experienced was torturous. I eventually learned to cope but never properly. Then, the voices started.

Actually, I thought everyone could hear voices. I believed it was just self-talk, but I then became paranoid. Everyone was an enemy. I harpooned relationships; I searched for evidence of disloyalty. Others conspired against me, and I couldn’t trust anyone. After my first hospitalization, I gained enough control of the voices and paranoia to function in society, but I wasn’t prepared for the effect of practicing medicine.

The voices exploded the morning I started practicing medicine. My head was filled with so much noise to the point that I couldn’t hear my patients speak. I couldn’t process information appropriately, and I was paralyzed with fear. I convinced myself that I was just anxious and pushed onward. The voices grew louder, and the paranoia became more severe.

What was the moment that caused you to realize that you needed to seek care? One day, I visited with a patient who was obviously psychotic and finally realized the truth: I was suffering from psychosis. But I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t even read about psychosis on my computer or phone because I was convinced that I was under surveillance. I only practiced for two months before I could go no further.

I clutched my car keys as tears streamed down my face. The voices advised that I take an airplane from the local airport on a one-way flight to a deserted island. I listened, but I did not follow their instructions. Instead, I approached my supervising physician and begged for help.

What does your recovery look like?

When I first left the hospital, I slept most of the day and came out of my room only to watch my favorite children’s cartoons. It was overwhelming to perform even simple activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing. I slowly regained my confidence and began to help my wife care for our newborn son. We moved to the coast, and I spent a lot of time at the ocean learning to feel alive again.

My progress stalled and my wife suggested we move back to Idaho and find a property to renovate. She thought that engaging in manual labor would help me feel a sense of accomplishment and recover self-confidence. I believed that would be a terrible idea. I despise trying new things and struggle with anything outside of the realm of theory. Yet, her idea persisted, and we moved back to the iceberg, known as Idaho.

I now visit a therapist once a week to work on processing my traumatic childhood and symptoms of schizophrenia. I continue to engage in pharmacotherapy, and altering my medication regimen seems to be a never-ending quest. I write a blog for HealthyPlace about my journey, which serves as an outlet and hopefully is beneficial to others. I’m hoping to incorporate exercise into my routine as winter gives way to spring, and I’m working to develop a more rigid schedule to help reach my goals.

Where are you now?

I’m in talks to possibly teach courses at a local university; I’m continuing to renovate our home; and I’m learning more about construction. I’m studying medicine in hopes of practicing again one day, and I’m writing my story with the goal of becoming a published author.

Despite all that, I continue to struggle with my mental health on a daily basis. I woke up with a list of items to accomplish this morning but was so anxious that I stayed in bed for hours. It wasn’t ideal, but I’m not going to let it ruin the rest of my day. I will learn from this morning and try harder tomorrow.

I’ve dealt with numerous setbacks since my diagnosis, but I’ve improved significantly. I’m not perfect, and I never will be, but I just keep trying. As Lou Gehrig said so many decades ago, “I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

Update: Randall currently is working on getting his medical license back so he can practice psychiatry to help others with struggles similar to his. 

One piece of advice you would give someone in a situation like yours trying to decide whether or not to seek care:

Never give up.

If you or someone you know is the victim of a sexual assault, there are resources to help them. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es). When you call or access their live chat online, you'll to be routed to a local sexual assault service provider in your area. Trained staff can provide confidential support and connect you to resources in your area.

Mental Health Resources If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, don’t suffer in silence! There are free and affordable resources to help you get through these times. Here are just few options for you below:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255): Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential, toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. 

  • National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) offers peer-to-peer support groups in most locations. This in-person group experience provides the opportunity for mutual support and positive impact. You can experience compassion and reinforcement from people who relate to your experiences.

  • Some federal agencies offer resources for identifying practitioners and assistance in finding low cost health services. These include:

  • Health Resources and Services Administration works to improve access to health care. The website has information on finding affordable healthcare, including health centers that offer care on a sliding fee scale.

  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has information on its website about benefits and eligibility for its programs and how to enroll.

  • The National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus website also has lists of directories and organizations that can help in identifying a health practitioner.

  • Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers resources to help answer questions about insurance coverage for mental health care.

  • Service members and Veterans have unique needs. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans provides for their specific needs.

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