Because this is Mental Health Awareness Month, I decided that today is the day that I tell the story of my diagnosis, symptoms, frustrations, treatments, and all that good stuff. If there are any questions that you would like to ask, please feel free to do so.
When Did I Notice a Problem?
When I was younger, I had this really bad temper. However, because I was a good student and shy, I flew under the radar. It didn’t take much for me to get very angry and sometimes violent. I noticed it more in my teenage years but I definitely noticed it.
I tried to talk to my mother about my anger a few times and was told to pray about it. I prayed, it really didn’t work. So, I determined that, when I got my own insurance, I would go and see a psychiatrist to find out what was wrong with me because there definitely was something wrong with me.
I used to get mad and straight up lash out at people. It got to the point that I had to give myself the “3 strikes rule”. I kept mental tabs of how many times a person messed with me before going after them. I did this because I started having heart palpitations from immediately getting mad at everything. There was so much anger. And I don’t know whether it was a hormonal thing or if there was a rage that needed to be out of me one way or another.
Once I hit my 20s and finished high school and vocational school, I obtained a job that afforded me the opportunity to obtain health insurance. At that time I was extremely depressed due to religious things and losing friends, I was also suicidal. So the first thing I did was get a psychiatrist. It’s funny, however, that my first psychiatrist is an INFAMOUS psychiatrist. His name was Dr. Alan Salerian (look him up, you won’t be disappointed. I will say that he was a very good psychiatrist to me). He was high up there in the psychiatric world and actually worked with the FBI or something.
He was a great doctor to me but he had to stop taking insurance due to some craziness that started taking place but that’s a whole different blog. My current psychiatrist is very familiar with him. We talked about him the other day. In the end, he wasn’t fit to stand trial after all the stuff that he was accused of.
Either way, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder at the age of 20.
Medications: Trial and Error
The one thing that a lot of people complain about when it comes to seeing someone is the fact that they immediately assume that they will need to be on medication. Some mental illnesses don’t require long term use of medication. Some just involve talk therapy which is very helpful or even short term medication. I double team my mental illness with meds and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Everything isn’t about drugs. Some people have acute mental illnesses that can be due to grief, stress, even the weather.
However, when I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, it was fun times trying to find the perfect medication for me. Without medication, I am very violent and everything gets to me. This is a brain issue. My brain doesn’t emit enough Serotonin so I need help to pump it. So, what meds have I been on beFORE my new diagnosis that was obtained in about 2009 which came with it’s own share of drama?
The first one was good ole Prozac. Let me take the time right now to say that, what works for others, might not work for you. So be very careful in suggesting meds or asking people what worked for them. We’re all made differently and have different needs. The purpose of my meds was to calm me down to the point that I didn’t want to murder someone for what I thought was an insult. When I say I had a bad temper, it was a pretty bad temper. If I felt that I was being picked on, that was it. If I felt as if I were being ganged up on, that was it as well. It is also a reason that Knowing Your Triggers is very important but this knowledge came with a LOT of counseling.
Soooo, what happened with Prozac? I became a zombie. I wasn’t myself. I gave it a chance too. I didn’t just give up on it. Wait, I did take myself off it when my sister cussed me out and I literally just sat there on the phone getting cussed out and I was in such a haze that it didn’t even matter. Even my boss didn’t like how out of it I seemed.
Again, I had Dr. Alan Salerian and he always talked about the Three Tenors when it came to medications. Sometimes you need multiple meds to even things out. So I stayed on Prozac but then he added maybe Paxil and Wellbutrin. He began to wean me off the Prozac to let the Paxil and Wellbutrin do their jobs. Well…… Wellbutrin is not my friend.
Wellbutrin had to be the med with the WORST side effect for me, well, there’s another one coming up that is more recent but this one was probably worse because I could have died had I not come to work late that day.
Wellbutrin gave me tremors. I could not write my name. I had a job interview and I went to fill out the forms and it looked like I literally had Parkinson’s Disease. I literally just couldn’t write.
So I went to my regular job after the interview. I think I had just gotten off the phone when I woke up on the floor. Thankfully, I worked with a bunch of doctors at Shady Grove Fertility Center (I loved that job but I was trying to find a job closer to home). Come to find out, I had had a seizure at work.
Had it not been for that interview earlier in the day, I would have been on the road when I had that seizure. They HAD to take me to the hospital (it’s the rule) and they had to check me to figure out what in the world happened. Needless to say, that medication got taken away.
Zoloft (Sertaline) is my ride or die med. Twenty one years later, I am still on that med. I cannot miss a day of it (I will tell stories of that later) or my manic episodes turn into me trying to literally kill someone.
Let’s Take a Pause on the Meds Since Zoloft Became the Winner
So, I was on Zoloft minding my own business. I had to get a procedure done and I missed a dose of my Zoloft. Well, this wasn’t a good thing. A day after my surgery, I ended up in the psych ward.
As my therapist had explained to me, Serotonin is to put up a thick skin so that little things don’t set you off. Well, that day, I got set off. If people know the history between myself and my family, one would already know what I was going through. I was a single mom but I lived with my parents and that was HARD. Especially at my age. My daughter was about 3 when this incident happened. I can tell you exactly what happened too.
Adventures in the Psych Ward
I was watching a movie and I had put a pizza in the oven for the four of us to eat. I was waiting for a commercial to come on so I could go back to the kitchen to get the food. Mind you, my dad was literally sitting outside of the kitchen and the pizza was for EVERYONE. When the alarm went off for the pizza, my dad yells upstairs for me to get the pizza. I was like “Hold on, I’m waiting for a commercial”. Well, he kept yelling about it and then my mom chimed in.
I went downstairs to get the pizza. I already had the one trigger that I saw in my diseased mind and that was being ganged up on. I hate it. However, the second trigger came when I was getting the pizza, cutting it up, and just taking care of it so people would stop talking.
Instead my dad chose to berate me and talk about how I am selfish and all this other stuff. I don’t know, if I were so selfish, why would I be making pizza for everyone? So he kept talking and I got mad, flipped over the dish rack looking for a knife.
I was just PISSED that, even though I had tried to diffuse the situation, there were still people talking. I started stabbing the counter and my hand went down the blade. I blacked out. When I came out of the black out, I saw blood all over the place.
My mom took me to the ER and they stitched my hand up after asking me numerous times what happened. I told them I was cutting a pizza (which I was) BUT, after they finished stitching me up, I closed my eyes, opened them, and there were two police standing at the edge of my bed. Yup, not fun. SO they gave me a choice; go to jail or go to the psych ward.
I wasn’t going to jail so they handcuffed me which sucked because I had ruptured the tendons in my right hand. Anyway, I rode in the front of the police car for some reason. I think there was rookie police officer and the other officer.
Listen, I liked the show Cops so I was in the car asking questions and stuff. I had no beef with the police and they had no beef with me.
Anyhow, I get to the dang on pysch ward part and have to sit there forever with the handcuffs on until they can take me back. So I get back there and my mom and sister come. The doc asks what happened and I told them. I don’t pick fights. But when I feel that I am attacked, I go into a whole different mode when I don’t have my meds (and sometimes with meds if someone keeps chipping away at my patience).
Sooooo, they got me a bed in the psych ward. It was extra late so everyone was already sleep and it was very quiet when I got there. The nurse told me that I didn’t belong in the psych ward. I mean…. like I said, I had gone under the radar for a very long time. Outbursts weren’t nothing. I would fight people for no reason. I have pulled knives on folks, put people in choke holds for namecalling, etc. So, yeah, I was surprised I hadn’t already done a stint in the psych ward in all honesty. It was truly only a matter of time in the end.
Life in the Ward
I was okay for a while. But they didn’t take good care of my hand. Had I been taken care of, I would have better use of my ring finger and pinky on my right hand. But I can’t blame anyone but myself. If I wanted full function of those two fingers, they would have to take a tendon out of my wrist and put it in my fingers and that’s too much work for some mess I did. I would rather live with the scars to remind me not to let anyone get the best of me like that.
I stayed in the ward for a good 5 days. Thought I was going to be out in 3 days BUT they said that I was still too mad. I was extra pissed and stopped going to the 3 times a day counseling because I was PISSED! Just mad at everything. So I had to play by their rules so I could get outta there.
And, I had to go BACK to the house where it took place as I had nowhere else to go and my child was with my parents. She had no clue what happened and really wasn’t there. I think I had taken her to see Ice Age that day. I stopped going to movies for a while after that because of the bad memories.
While I was there, other patients came to my room for counseling from me. I think I had pointed out that this was what made me want to finish my Psych degree. I am a person that you can talk to without judgement because I’ve been there. And, if I haven’t been there, I know how to be objective. I also shared a room with a woman that had dementia. It was an experience.
There was a dude named Willie that used to try to escape every time someone left or came in. That was funny. We would say “Free Willy!” But yeah, the psych ward was a special time. What annoyed me most, however, is that they didn’t let the people go out to get some sun. Serotonin is needed but I’m no doctor.
Anyhow, the psychiatrist came around and basically said I had bipolar disorder. They kept me on my Zoloft but added the “go to” for bipolar disorder which is Lithium. I hated Lithium. I gave it a chance I really did. But it was trash (for me). They also put me on Seroquel which helped to ease my mind so I could go to sleep and not go into a manic state (you have to have sleep, it is VERY important. And you have to clear the thoughts and voices in order to GET that sleep).
So, on the fifth day, I went home. Although the dispute between my father and I caused me to go to the psych ward, when I came home, he gave me a big hug. He just told me “Welcome home” and that was the end of it. But resentment lasts when the true issue isn’t acknowledged. One of the biggest things I don’t like about my family is that we don’t discuss things or apologize. It’s a trait that I choose not to pass on to my daughter.
As I have said in previous posts about mental illness, my dad is a Vietnam Vet that suffers from PTSD (who wouldn’t after that) and alcoholism. Because of this, sometimes he does and says things that aren’t cool. I will never forget the day he told my brother and I that we weren’t wanted and that he would have divorced my mom but it was cheaper to keep her. Now, people say “Well, he was drunk”. That’s fine and dandy but we were kids and that really had an impact on me. I don’t know if it had that same impact on my brother.
What I Learned
The first thing I learned was never to miss your meds. Don’t do it. You miss one, and that’s your butt. I was just having an issue with my meds last week. I am very proactive but CVS didn’t tell me they were no longer participating with my insurance so it was a mess but I tried to tell them that there would be a chance that I might be put away again if I didn’t have at least my Zoloft. Zoloft is VERY important for me as I need that so as not to snap at everything.
Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t always have insurance. When you don’t have insurance, sometimes you have to stretch the drugs you have so that you won’t run out. Well, one day I stretched my drugs out and it almost resulted in the death of a very rude woman that thought that she was funny. I almost pulled her out of the car to stomp her. I got out of my car because traffic wasn’t moving after she called me a “Bitch” and blocked my turn into a gas station and standing traffic. NO ONE was moving. She thought she was funny so…. yeah….
So I always tell people that they have to find the meds that work for them and take them. Although the process can be frustrating and I know you don’t want to “depend” on anything, mental illness is just an illness. It is an illness like hypertension, diabetes, asthma. It’s just a mental illness and not a heart, endocrine, or lung illness. Suck it up and take your meds because jail isn’t fun and really doesn’t look fun.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed and really think I would like to take a vacation back to the psych ward. I could get some reading and writing done but I need to get able to go outside too.
Communicate With Your Doctor
I hate when people complain about their meds to everyone BUT the person that has the ability to prescribe you something else. First, you have to give the drug time to work. If it doesn’t work, don’t just stop taking the meds, CALL YOUR DOC! That’s what they are there for. They cannot read minds. You have to tell them how you’re feeling. Like I said about the Lithium in another post, my psychiatrist told me straight out that he didn’t treat the illness, but the person. There are great docs out there.
Meds Are NOT Always Necessary for Certain Diagnoses
Although I have bipolar disorder and will likely be on my drugs for the rest of my life, drugs are not the only way I treat my bipolar disorder. There are so many other ways to treat mental illnesses that aren’t chronic. Simple things like standing in the sun, opening your blinds, working out, listening to music, finding time for yourself, etc. Even small things like taking a bubble bath or making up your bed helps.
In addition to my meds, I see my therapist every 2 weeks. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is VERY important because you get to talk out situations, discuss coping mechanisms, learn about yourself, get to the root of the issues that you might have, and learn how to let things go. Medication is not mandatory in maintaining your mental health in acute cases.
Oh, I didn’t tell you guys about what Seroquel did to me. Seroquel worked for me a good 8 years maybe. If you look a the pic of me in the red, at that time I had gained weight. Before Seroquel, I was 148 lbs, after Seroquel, 237 lbs. It was because of the Seroquel. My clothes didn’t fit and my boobs looked like I had gotten implants. My daughter has an intellectual disability and autism which meant meltdowns so I stayed in the house because I was depressed. Anyhow, I started working out more and lost a lot of weight. However, Seroquel decided it was time to stop working with me and, well, I gained weight even though I was working out and eating right. Even my doc didn’t believe I was doing what I was supposed to do until my CBC came back and it said I had Diabetes. Yup, good ole Seroquel decided that it didn’t want to be my friend anymore. Here’s the link to that experience: So I Have Diabetes. In addition to THAT, I was then called fat a lot but people tend not to think about the impact it has on people nor even care to know the reason behind weight gain. You can read about that experience here: What Joy Do You Get From Making Fun of Overweight People?
If you made it this far, thank you. To those of you that think that they might need some extra help, please say something. Please do something. Don’t sit in denial. Don’t self medicate. Sometimes you’re doing more harm than good.
I have been speaking on mental health for a long time now. I even went to school and completed my BS in Psychology so that I could learn about myself and continue to be an objective individual when it comes to the feelings and needs of others. I also learned the art of self evaluation. I might not always be right so I take a step back and review situations to find my role in miscommunications and the like. This is how we learn. This is how we learn that this world isn’t geared toward us and that we have to live with many others who are struggling just as we are. In the end, if you need help, get it. You’re not weak. There’s no big deal. Oh, and one more of my blogs is Bipolar and Black. I know that many cultures do not embrace seeking mental health help and it does a disservice to so many directly and indirectly. As a mother, I owe it to my child to make sure that I am mentally stable enough to take care of her. I don’t want to continue the cycle although I don’t hold resentment to my father because he didn’t have a great life and he grew up a different way than we did. He did his best and there are no handbooks for life nor raising kids.
I think I have written enough now. If you got this far, thank you for reading. I should be asleep now but I can’t ever start a blog and not finish it because I will lose my train of thought and forget it. Except for that last blog I did about Kpop. I had to add pictures. Well, good night, everyone.
I hope that everyone takes what I said into consideration. If you think no one cares, we do. If you need someone to talk to, I’m here. My little degree is good for something as I am too poor to get my Master’s (even though I want to go into Forensic Psychology because I am a true crime lover and often identify with serial killers because I very well could have been one had I not had the wherewithal to know there was an issue).
7 thoughts on “The Story of My Mental Illness”
Very good post. You have penned down your experience about having a mental illness. Nicely written. Keep up the good work.