There have been so many. Medicines. Diagnoses. Hospitals. It has been a rough five years.
I am 19 years old. At 14, I started to hurt myself, and have disordered eating. I talked to my school counselor about how I wanted to die, and she finally sent me to my first hospital.
I always seemed to stay in the hospital longer than the other kids. Instead of 3-5 days, I’d be there a month. It didn’t make sense to me. What was so wrong with me that I couldn’t leave the hospital like a normal kid? I felt like I was crazy. Was I? No, but it sure felt like it.
On one of my hospital stays, I got diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and put on a bunch of medicines. I felt like a zombie, but at least it numbed the depression and super highs I got. I also got diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Over the years, these diagnoses would change. One doctor said I was OCD. Another, Schizoaffective. Even another, Childhood Schizophrenia. The medicines have been flip-flopped as well. I’ve probably tried every anti-psychotic out there. Most of them either made me feel worse, sick, or gain weight. It was not going well.
I was hospitalized 7 times when I was under the age of 18. Four of them were at the state hospital, which is in my hometown. The ability to see my family while I was there made a huge difference.
One time at the state hospital, something happened to change my life. I met a boy named CJ. CJ had some sort of severe developmental disorder. He wouldn’t listen to anyone and had a lot of fits. Then, I started to get to know him and he started to change. He listened to me and actually tried to interact with me. I could get him to calm down when he was agitated. We played many a game in the sensory room, and sat together, just enjoying each other’s company. Most of the staff thought he was unbearable, but I saw someone different. He was struggling, just like I was. Sure, our differences were huge, but we both hurt inside. We both just wanted somebody to play with. He might not have been able to talk, but I know he understood me, and I understood him.
One of the times I was at that hospital, I must have been in my manic state. I was screaming, seeing and hearing things, banging my head, and acting completely wild. I had to be restrained or put in the quiet room many times. It was the toughest acute stay I had. Fortunately, I had a wonderful mental health worker who held me and told me it would be okay. It is wonderful workers like her that make the hospital worthwhile, besides the doctors.
I also had to go to a residential, or long term, treatment center. I stayed for nine months. It was the hardest thing that I have ever gone through. Things got so bad for me, I had to go over to the acute unit for a while until I was more stabilized. Things had gone well at the beginning of my stay. Everybody said it was a “honeymoon period.” Then, acute. One day in acute, I saw everybody else leaving and me staying. I decided that I wanted to go too. The next day, I started working really hard on myself to try to get better.
Alex is a blogger who writes about mental health and her experiences with bipolar disorder and being on the autism spectrum. She would like to help end the stigma on mental illnesses and autism.
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