A Brief Introduction
My friend told me a backstory is always good. But how far does one go back? And how much detail should be provided? There are many things about my past experiences and environment that have affected my mental health over the years, and some may have even affected the development of my brain – including my personality, traits; even physical changes such as to the hippocampus and amygdala. While some of it may be genetic, I believe that some of my mental illness may have been caused or worsened by these things as a child. Regardless of why, I have suffered for entire life because of it and I’m going to start sharing more about my experiences so that people don’t feel alone – and so that others become aware of the reality of mental illness. I’m not ashamed of anything; I’m a good person today and help others frequently.
While growing up – before I knew anything about mental health or mental illness, I likely already had issues. I always felt that something was “different” about me, something was “off” – but I had no idea what. This made me feel incredibly lonely all of the time, even when I was surrounded by people; family and friends included. I had extreme social anxiety, drastic changes to my emotions and motivation at times to the point where my parents would either literally drag me out of bed or let me stay home from school if I was down. Some weeks and months were the fine though, and some were even “too good to be true” — I felt on top of the world. I would study fast and do extra homework, be excited to do projects and go all out on everything; and I hardly needed sleep! I may have had hallucinations at a young age as well; for example, believing I’d been abducted by extraterrestrials. It wasn’t until 16 when I was planning to end my life and got sent to a psychiatric hospital that I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and Generalized anxiety disorder. It’s been a long time since then. I still have those symptoms, and worse. Currently, my diagnosis is officially Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar type; and I still have GAD. I have multiple sclerosis with severe multiple spasms, chronic pain, and balance issues as well. It’s not the greatest situation. But I try to make the best of it. I worked hard and have been doing everything I can to help myself; everything that professionals recommend, my education has taught me, plus my own research and experience of myself and others has led me to. And you know what? I’m okay. I don’t love life, but I want to live. I want to help other people because that makes me feel good.
More about feeling different
I had different morals and priorities; overall, a seemingly completely different outlook on life altogether. I wasn’t truly interested in most of popular, trending things of my teenage time such as movies, celebrities, music, material possessions (e.g. brand name shoes, clothing) — although once in a while, I did cave into some of those – in attempt to ‘fit in’ better. But I felt like there were much more important things in life to think and worry about than these insignificant things that other people called problems; their problems seemed materialistic, such as their parents not buying them something they didn’t actually need, but wanted and felt is important. They were also superficial, such as them not knowing what to wear to school, how to impress the opposite sex and wondering if someone liked them enough to date, what they were going to eat that night, and so on.
Sure, those are some of the usual issues to teenagers. But for me? Sometimes, my problem was figuring out how I was going to change the world, while other times it was more about how I’m going to last another day.
As a child
I remember going through a bunch of difficult times. For example, one thing a lot of people can probably relate to is their parents fighting and divorcing. My mother cheated on my father and was often not there for me; I remember crying out for her at night many times and feeling very disappointed, uncared for. When they did divorce, I was juggled between the two, but ended up mainly staying with father and rarely seeing my mother. In later years, my trust for her just diminished more for other reasons.
Another event that was traumatic is that I was molested by an older cousin of mine when I was only 6 or 7 years old. He made it seem like a game. I feel so stupid thinking back about it now, and both upsets me and pisses me off. I haven’t spoken to him about it ever, and have hardly told anyone; it took me 2 years to even tell my therapist. I know that it wasn’t my fault and I don’t blame myself, but these things still change something in your mind; an innocence and trust level that you can’t get back.
There were other things as well. A lot of them lowered my trust in people an an early age, and it has progressed over time.
If you can’t trust the people who you’re supposed to be able to trust the most, then who the hell can you trust?
I had friends, but I was very picky about who I was close to. And I was afraid to share anything like this to them; I was ashamed at the time. I was always trying to “fit in” and pretend everything was “okay” – but it wasn’t, at all.
Moving ahead a bit
As I mentioned, at the age of 16, I was planning to take my own life. I had a drivers’ license and my own vehicle. I went out a lot to feel some type of freedom and escape from the rest of my life. Once in a while, I would stop at one of my friend’s house to talk with them for a little bit, but for the most part, I would just think about things as I drove around without any goal in mind. It didn’t matter where I went, as long as I wasn’t home.
After coming home from one of these pointless trips and pulling into the driveway, I noticed there was a NY State Trooper talking to my mother. I didn’t think it was related to me, so I got out and asked what was going on out of concern. But it turned out, he was there for me.
Apparently, during one of my depressed states, I had canceled an online web hosting service with part of the reason being something along of the lines of “I probably won’t be around much longer anyway. I’m going to kill myself.” and they took it seriously enough to call the police. At the time, I was stunned and somewhat angered, because I felt like my privacy was invaded and I didn’t ask for or want that. And, well, I actually was feeling suicidal – and I had been thinking about ways to kill myself for a few weeks. Of course, I didn’t tell the police officer that because I was afraid of what might happen if I told him. But my fears were about to come true, regardless.
After talking to the officer myself for about 15 minutes and trying to convince him that it wasn’t serious, he decided to handcuff me and take me in ‘for my own safety’ and evaluation. I guess he didn’t buy it, eh? So there I went, in the back of a NY State Trooper SUV, looking out the window at my mother in tears. I believe she followed in her car, or came shortly after, but I can’t recall exactly. A lot of this is actually a blur to me, because it was so overwhelming.
At this point, I started panicking, having racing thoughts, feeling very irritable, and more suicidal than I already was. I had no idea what to expect and I absolutely hated being forced to do anything. The ride in the back of that car felt like it took hours, and I didn’t know where we were going. I believe we stopped at the police station, then ER for an evaluation.
While I can’t recall every detail about what happened, I do remember that after talking to what I believe was a psychiatrist while in such a messed up state, I was transferred via ambulance to another place.
I denied that anything was wrong, but others didn’t believe me…
The next thing I remember is arriving at a place called Four Winds, which is a mental hospital. By this time, I’m really losing it. I was incredibly energetic, had more racing thoughts than ever before, very aggressive and irrational. I demanded to know where I was and why. When I found out they wanted to keep me there for an uncertain amount of time, I threatened to hurt people and break out the glass windows. I was so determined not to stay there, that I would have gladly cut myself on the glass or even been tasered (whether that was realistic or not), and still gotten my way out because I had so much adrenaline built up inside me that I was ready to take on anything and anyone.
And then a few words changed everything.
A woman who worked there told me “You’re just going to make it worse for yourself if you keep acting like this. And you aren’t going to get very far.” – and at that very moment, the logical part of my brain kicked in. I was making it worse for myself, and I had already ruined any chances I had of proving to them that I was alright. I started crying, and started to feel depressed and scared instead. I eventually calmed down, while my mother was likely giving them more information about me. I’m sure she was upset too because I remember her saying she was sorry and loved me. She didn’t want to leave me there, but she had to.
So there I was, in a mental institute.
I think my mind has blocked out a lot of the things that happened directly after. But long story short, I was in a mental hospital and I was being forced to stay there against my will. I stayed for nearly a whole month, and I hated it.
Sometime during the long stay with them questioning me, my past, thoughts, feelings, reactions to blobs, monitoring me and my mental/emotional status, and whatever other tests they did, they came to the conclusion that I had Bipolar Disorder type I (with psychotic features) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I kept this diagnosis for many years, being reconfirmed by multiple psychiatrists until just recently.
And that’s a summary to the beginning of a long, painful story.