I usually say that I got my correct diagnosis in 2012, but when I was in college, the health center got it right too, but then I refused to believe it, but I did acknowledge I had a form of Bipolar. Not exactly a wonderful diagnoses, but I at least it wasn’t that dreadful other illness that they told me.
In 2002, I had a manic breakdown. I tried to hide it, so I was never at home. I completely depleted my back account. I called my girlfriend at least five times a day, and when I hadn’t heard from her for two days, I ran into the living room crying (and apparently speaking gibberish). I believe it was a Sunday bc my dad was on the phone forever, and eventually I had an appointment the next day. I was still in the living room going back and forth between crying my eyes out and screaming things that didn’t make sense. The place I was going the next day had a doctor on call and gave dad the ok to give me Valium for the night. They were saying that I should be taken to the ER. My dad refused.
The next day I was still running on empty. Apparently my dad was so scared. I only vaguely remember the day before. Then I went to see a Psychiatrist. It wasn’t the first one I had seen, but I had never acted like this before. I remember having to answer the doctor’s questions. I couldn’t even process them for at least 30 seconds or more. I was, however in my right mind enough that I avoided telling him that his office was slowly turning into a snake’s bed. I had to get through these questions fast, or I would be bitten by a venomous snake and die.
Finally (FINALLY!) the questions stopped and he called for my dad. I didn’t want him coming in because he would die. When he walked in, however, everything i was seeing turned into a decent size room with books in it. My dad was obviously a snake handler. Then the doctor said that he was certain that I had Bipolar Type 1. He explained it to my dad as if I wasn’t in the room, but to me that was good. The dr. gave me a prescription for Lithium, and said he wanted to see me in two weeks. Something he did was very odd, I would find out later. I was on Prozac for a few years now, and he told me to keep taking it. I was in a full blown manic state and you said to continue taking a med that was basically fuel for the manic fire? I didn’t question it then though.
Over the next two weeks, I was still reckless. my father, stepmom, sister, and two brothers were told not to let me go outside. he even siphoned the gas from my car so if i did leave the house, there was another hurdle to overcome.
Around the middle of my second week, my dad saw me improve, if just for a little bit. By the time I went to see the doctor, I was in the last futile attempts to see normal, but I was in a hypomanic state. I was actually feeling better. The hallucinations were still there, but as I said before, I didn’t even tell my dad, let alone this doctor.
When I was 15, i actually told my parents that I kept seeing a young boy hanging from a tree. They dismissed it, though, because they were worried about my suicide attempts to even glance at me and see that I was completely scared. Soon, I would be attending a 6 week inpatient program where I couldn’t see or talk to any of my friends, and visitation was on on Saturdays, but we were allowed to call our parents if we so needed. I hated that place.
So now, especially as it was summer, I was basically a detainee of the house. They also saw the (totally healed) scars on my arms, so everyone knew that I couldn’t be alone in the kitchen. My mg of Lithium kept rising over the rest of the summer, but stopped doing that when it was a week before school. I remembered that my dad was still worried. I couldn’t tell him that I was going to be ok, when I didn’t know myself. Everything was ok for awhile once I got back to school. My fellow actors and techies were there and I was seriously happy. By that, I meant that My mood wasn’t on the depressed side or on the manic side. Everyone was starting to have faith in me again. Then, as I said, no mood swings… but I was still hallucinating. And no one there knew. No one knew.
Then, my Lithium was making me throw up right after I took it. This lasted until years after college, but no one believed that it was making me physically sick. And.. now we go back…
Hallucinations, panicky thoughts, paranoid. but my moods were almost gone ALL the time. I went in to see the college health one day just feeling sick. I ended up having a new thing attached to my Bipolar. Psychosis. And an appointment that day at the hospital, bc he had to go through leaps and bounds to be able to give me any medication, and he knew I needed help as soon as possible.
I wasn’t really given a lot to combat the psychosis, and one doctor flat out told me that I should take off a semester or two, until I was stable. He said he knew that I only had a year left, but I should be looking after myself and leave. He gave me nothing for the psychosis, and then I was out on the street, crying, finally letting go of the secret I was keeping. I didn’t tell all my professors, but I told all of them in the Theatre department about what was going on. They were so supportive and worked with me on different levels because they knew what was going on.
So… Bipolar 1 with Psychosis. That diagnosis followed me around for over a decade. It was this diagnoses that I had when I met most of me “current” friends. Until 2012. When I got a job after looking for one over ten months, I couldn’t wait until my insurance coverage kicked in because I needed a new Psychiatrist and a new therapist (don’t worry… for most of the time I was seeing a Psychiatrist at a free clinic and was given samples).
I first met my therapist. Her name was Tricia. I took an immediate liking to her. our first meeting was 1.5 hours because she had to produce an evaluation plus some general therapy. So she let me go and I told her what had been happening since I was 15. I have an incredible memory for remembering dates, and if you give me enough time, I could probably say almost certainly what meds I was taking during a specific year, and I had a mental health journal, which I always brought with me as a guide. There were some pieces missing in it. Times when the last thing on my mind was keeping the journal up to date. Like when I saw dragons and immediately hunkered down under a store which had a large awning. or even better… I took refuge in a store… but after 10 minutes (or so) the store manager forced me out, and I kept warning him about the dragons. Not the best time to write shit down, right?
After telling her everything, she asked some random questions, etc. I made sure that the office got transcripts from when I was receiving health when I worked at my previous job. She then asked me if I ever had psychosis without being manic or depressed. Of course I do, I told her. A couple more questions after that, and then we had a short, but freeing therapy appointment.
A little over a week later, I saw my psychiatrist for the first time. Again, I had to tell my story. He also asked questions, and then asked me if I’ve ever heard the term “schizoaffective disorder” My mind went back to that college mental health center who diagnosed me with that. But I didn’t know exactly what is was, since I refused to accept the diagnoses, and threw out every pamphlet i had gotten from there.
I told him I had heard of it, but didn’t know what it entailed. He gave me a point by point explanation. By the time he was done, I felt as if he completely summed up everything and I accepted the fact that I might have this disorder. As I let it sink in, he also saw generalized anxiety, and diagnosed me with that, and, of course, Schizoaffective Disorder, bipolar type. He said that the only reason I was coping so well was because I took anti-psychotic drugs. He then changed all my meds except for the klonopin. There was no gradual weening off of them either. And no slowly building a tolerance for the new drugs. I was literally taken off the ones i was currently on, and put on a higher dose than recommended for starting the drugs. This should have been a red flag.
It was that year that I had my first experience in a psych ward. I obviously had to take off work, but my mom contacted my boss and explained I was in the hospital. Of course, she didn’t tell him that I was there bc of a total psychotic meltdown. In the hospital, my antipsycotic drug was upped, and my “mood stabilizer” got tripled. When I got out, I just couldn’t do practically anything. First day back at work, and the head teller (who is awesome) asked me if I were taking any new drugs. She knew about my condition, and her brother had both bipolar and schizophrenia. I told her that some of my meds got increased. She told me flat out that I looked like I was heavily drugged. I remember trying to stay away from my supervisors, and praying that I wouldn’t have any customers that day.
It got so bad that I started seeing customers as demons that wanted to kill me. In fact, I could tell what customers the tellers were helping were demons too. It got even worse bc it started to have intense anxiety attacks before work bc the bank was built on top of a demon stronghold. I eventually had to quit bc I went into another major Psychiatric breakdown, and the doctors suggested that I needed to leave the bank and find somewhere to work that wasn’t so stressful. I didn’t have a back-up job before I quit, but they promised to support me having unemployment.
While this was going on, I slowly started to tell people about my new diagnoses. First, I told Lauren, who I had been friends with since I was 13. When I told her, she actually said that the new diagnoses made a whole lot more sense to her. That gave me the push I needed to tell a few others, but I still waited a bit.
Suddenly I developed crippling social anxiety, and I stopped going to parties, or even leaving the house, at some point. It just got worse. So, I decided to message a few of my closest friends and admitted that I had serious social anxiety at the moment, and that I wasn’t trying to avoid anyone. I also told them about my new diagnoses. Everyone expressed support and love… some said that they’d contact me if there was a low-key event coming up (like brunch or the like). That didn’t happen.
Instead, a couple of people were awesome, but most of them stopped talking to me. I kept getting party invites, but I could never go. That was a year where my mental illness was cracked opened so that they could see it. One person even told me that positive thinking could take a lot of the problems away. If it were that easy, I would have already done so.
So that’s what happened when I got diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder. I accepted it, but some didn’t. I eventually got on the right meds years after this. Before I didn’t get those meds, I had been hospitalized two more times.
There is so much more to tell, but I’ll tell you another time. I’ve already written a post that is way fucking long already. Thanks for reading, friends.