My mental health journey is something that is very personal to me, but something I feel that people should know. It is something that I have struggled behind the curtain with my whole life, that up until recently has become an issue for me.
Growing up with my mom, health was always put on the back burner until it was a major issue. For example, when I was in high school, I had what the doctors thought was a stomach virus that I was in the hospital twice for. It was always all or nothing when it came to my health.
I had always known in my heart and in my head that I wasn’t always “right.” I say that because I always felt that I had an undiagnosed disorder. I knew I had anxiety and depression like many people, but I always though there was something bigger, much worse, going on. I couldn’t have told you what I was feeling because most of the time I didn’t know myself.
My whole life I had a voice in my head. A deeper, meaner voice that would come out from time to time and pick at my insecurities and knock me down. This would cause my depressive states, but I never told anyone about them because I knew they would pass. The voice when I was younger never stayed long, but as I got older would come out more often, more persistent and stayed much longer.
Along with the voice, I would have visual hallucinations. These would happen every time I was in a dark room or closed my eyes. I thought that they were normal and thought everyone had them. This is where my fear of the dark came in. I was ashamed that even in high school I never wanted to be in the dark. I had night lights, leave my closet light on, or when I was older, I would keep my cell phone light on until I was asleep.
My dreams were never dreams; they were always nightmares. They would turn from sweet experiences in my head to brutal nightmares with a flip of a switch. At my best of times I wouldn’t have any dreams, I would just sleep and wake up hours later. At my worst of times, they would wake me up with tears streaming down my face, terrified.
I dealt with all of this silently because it hadn’t gotten that bad. I was never suicidal or had any intention of self harm. I was what I thought back then to be happy. Coping, but happy.
In April of 2018, my father died suddenly in his sleep. This devastated me in way that no one will ever know. He wasn’t always active in my life, having distanced himself from my mother when I was younger. My grandparents did their best to keep him in the loop of my life because I feel that he never wanted to reach out to me.
He would occasionally call and leave a voicemail, but because he was never around me enough, I wasn’t always comfortable talking to him. I never knew what to say and neither did he. Closer to his passing he had been calling me to ask me about college and what I was doing. He never graduated high school so prerequisites that you have to take was something he didn’t understand.
This being said, when my phone lit up that he was calling on a fateful April night, I almost didn’t answer; but something in me said I should. When I answered the phone and a police officer asked me for my name and information, my heart dropped to the floor instantly. He was gone.
I did my best on the phone but didn’t know enough about him to answer some of the questions, so while my boyfriend at the time was driving back to my house, I called my grandpa and started sobbing telling him to call my dads phone to talk to the.
I quickly called my aunt in Michigan, who picked up the phone right away since I never called her, and told her through my sobs. We eventually got back to my house as I sat there in shock. How did this happen?
The following week was hell. I was hurt, broken, in shock, and about 40 other emotions all at the same time. This week is when I learned that my loving, caring, gentle father wasn’t just goofy, he was schizophrenic.
A few weeks after the shock had passed, I made an appointment with my doctor to ask if I possibly had something wrong with me. She told me that having a disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is something that is cause early and that I had nothing to worry about. I didn’t believe her, but I went along with it.
And thus began my downward spiral. A week after my father passed, me and my boyfriend of 2 and a half years broke up, I was working as many hours as I could, and most importantly smoking as much weed as I possibly could. It was coping with my losses the best way I could.
For 7 weeks, all I did was smoke weed, go to the gym, and go to work. I had isolated myself from people mentally and put on a happy face when I was broken inside.
My turning point, also known as my mental break down, happened. I was all of a sudden happy. And I mean really happy. I had turned 21 so I was able to get my hands on alcohol now; something else I really didn’t need. But I was still coping. I felt I was finally healing somehow.
During this time I had started to get ready for school to start back up. It was something positive to distract myself with. As many people do, I was making lists of what needed to be done. These lists made sense to me, but when I look back on them and remember them, they were mania writings. What that means is that when you looked at the paper, you couldn’t actually read them. They made no sense – I was beginning to lose my mind.
One day I decided I was going to use social media. This is something that people turn to in time of need and so did I. It became very sporadic postings, that made no sense. This is how I was starting to talk to; everything coming out of my mouth made sense to me at the time but was gibberish to other people.
About 2 and a half months after my dad died, I was truly manic now. One day in July, I had a morning shift. I hadn’t slept in about a week, and I was at work. Running around, “predicting” the future, thinking I was doing great. I wasn’t, but at the same time no one was helping me. I saw that they were going to fire me, so I quit. I walked home because I didn’t know where my car was.
I was going to take a nap but instead started a Facebook live that was scaring every single one of my Facebook friends. My grandpa wanted to know where the car was so he left to go get it from the garage in downtown Chicago where I left it. Earlier in the day, he had sent my mom a text that I wasn’t okay. She had my aunt look at my Facebook and she reported back that it wasn’t right.
My mom came over after work to find me in my room, laying in the dark, repeating my name and stating that I lived in the United States. I was incoherently babbling like that for a while, before I went outside. This is when I got scared of her. I took off with my dog down the street babbling, as she called 911.
My dog went with her back to the house while I walked around barefoot down the street. A cop pulled up next to me and tried to talk to me but I was very afraid of the police. Then the ambulance pulled up, which is when I attempted to run but they tackled me. I was put in the ambulance and taken to the ER, where I detoxed and they knocked me out after about 4 hours of babbling and yelling around.
I was woken up at about 2 am and taken to a mental institution about 30 minutes away. I was there for 5 days; I don’t remember the first 3. This being my first exposure to this kind of thing was interesting for me. Being in group therapies, medications, it was all new and kind of exciting.
The 2 days I do remember were very annoying. I was still going manic and depressive quite often because the medications were such small doses and had not had a chance to enter my system fully. After 5 days, they discharged me with a prescription and I was ready to get on with my life.
The problem with my discharge is that it was on a Friday at 7p.m. What this means is that when I got out, almost immediately, I relapsed. Not with smoking or alcohol, but with medication. I didn’t have the right tools yet to cope. I had planned on starting an outpatient program that following Monday, but was so manic that I was still not in my right mind enough to do so.
For 4 days, I was out on the streets, with a guy that I had met in the program. We were running around, being menaces to society. He unfortunately is still doing so to this day. I didn’t sleep for those days, barely any medication, and was still out of my mind.
After these 4 days, I had finally made it to an outpatient program. Once I got home, I was so severely manic and out of my mind, that I was running around once again at home. My grandpa tried to stop me and grab me, but I wriggled away, threw a dog bone at his head and ran outside. I ran a bit down the street and waited for the cops to come.
They calmly talked to me, got me into an ambulance, and off to the ER once again. I thought when I was there since I had a plan of treatment in my hand, I would be let go. I was wrong. They tried to knock me out again, but I fought it. This is when I had my first Tachycardia episode, explained to me as a female heart attack. I wasn’t hooked up to any monitors, but I felt it. I was standing there talking to the nurses, crying, and I was seen as someone on drugs still. I wasn’t seen as a psychotic person to the ER doctor that was “caring” for me.
From there, I was sent to another psych facility closer to home where I spent 6 days. I was detoxing even more and they were giving me medications again. I was still going manic and depressive, but at least I was safe for the most part. The charge nurse did in fact mess up my hormonal pills which made me sick, but I knew what was going to happen, so I was prepared.
Something that many people with bipolar disorder do is “predict the future.” I can tell you exactly when I’m going to go manic and can tell you when it will be over. I’m not sure why, but I can. I couldn’t tell you why it would happen, but now I can. For me now it’s usually my medications that are a bit off that day or something environmental that happens, such as an anxiety attack that now triggers them.
When I was released from the second hospital, I again, had met a guy and was hanging out with him. The difference this time is I had my medication, was taking it, and had a program lined up. So while I was seeing this new guy, I was doing what I had to do for me. The guy in question is still out there, doing bad drugs, being a menace.
The new program I enrolled in when I first got out is what saved me. I busted my ass to make sure that I was there everyday, that I was taking my meds. What really helped was the group therapies I was in. They had specific topics that did bring up bad old memories, but helped me work through them and process them for what they were, not just how I perceived them.
I was in the program for about 6 weeks. In that time I learned a lot about myself, how to cope with my past traumas, and learn how and what the medications do for my body. What also really helped me was hearing other people stories. I’ve always loved hearing other people’s experiences, and it was helpful to know that there are people out there with very similar situations of all age groups and nationalities.
The program I was in was in the suburbs, so some of the problems I had from being closer to the city was something that some had never heard of. My language was something that I had to learn to control around people because it scared some. The second psych hospital I was in was very close to city, so I was exposed to and made friends with many different gang members. These are people I think are amazing and just got lost in life due to the hand they were dealt.
My complaint about the program is simple; I felt that the education for someone with a dual diagnosis, meaning a mental illness and substance abuse problem, could have been better. The education of the different types of drugs could have been better for some of the counselors as well. Their main focus was no drugs, which is great, but something hard to do with a simple snap of your fingers. Also, some of the counselors didn’t know how to react or help with my stories because they had no previous experience with gang relations.
If it weren’t for the group, I wouldn’t have met my incredible boyfriend. I wouldn’t have as many communication skills when it comes to difficult topics. I wouldn’t have the right tools in my tool box to cope. It save my life in many ways, and for that I’ll always be grateful.