Last week I started thinking about doing a post thanking everyone who had stayed with me in some aspect and time of my life. The people who gave me hope in my darkest hours, or stayed awake with me when I didn’t sleep because of my manic or mixed states. So I started making a list and writing down what they did. It became ridiculously long, and I wasn’t even halfway done. I honestly didn’t realize how much people had supported me throughout my life. I couldn’t post an entry that long, so I decided on one thank you. And it’s not my dad or anyone else in my family who supported me. This is a person who has been through it all with me. Someone who could’ve turned their back and never talk to me again. So, here goes:
Thank you. I don’t know if you realize this, but you’ve definitely been one of my rocks ever since I started my journey through the mental health system, and you pretty much know everything I went through. I think the only thing you don’t know is that in freshman year of high school I decided I wanted to kill myself by overdosing. Instead, I ended up being deathly ill for over a week. Don’t feel bad you didn’t know this. I haven’t really told anyone about it.
Actually, you were there since before I reached out to an almost complete stranger to tell her I wanted to kill myself. The year before all that… you were there when I was convinced that I was possessed, and started having blackouts. And when I started wanting to kill a mutual friend of ours to the point where I actually had a cat leash and tried to strangle her with it. You, nor her, said anything about it to anyone. Very grateful about that.
So yes, now back to the suicidal thoughts. I felt like I was walking trough quicksand, being pulled under with each step. Not only was I suicidal, but I was hearing and seeing things, the most prominent being when I kept seeing a boy hung on a tree. I was convinced he was “Doug,” the one who I was convinced possessed me. I shared this all with you, and you did what I needed. You listened.
When I had to go away to a 6 week inpatient program for adolescents, you promised you’d be there when I got out… and you were. Diagnoses after diagnoses followed that, and by the time of my 16th birthday my dad and I had given up… no one could agree as to what was wrong with me, so we ditched all the pills and all the therapy. I still hurt so much, and you tried to help me through it all.
Senior year of high school was horrible. I had a full-on psychotic episode. I wasn’t depressed or manic when it started, so everyone thought it seemed strange. A month after it began, the mania came along for the ride. I didn’t sleep, I (again) was convinced that someone was possessing me. This time it was a girl named Karin. I wrote furiously in my journal, making no sense at all. I would stay up all night as voices went in and out of my head. I was convinced my mother was poisoning me, and I thought the shadow people were following me. All of my close friends knew, but you were the only one who dealt with my paranoia before, and you were the only one who witnessed how I was when I thought I was possessed before. As the rest of my friends showed concern and tried helping me through the year as best they could, you told me the truth and even though I didn’t believe you, you persisted. You were still my friend , and you were still concerned, but you didn’t dive into my hallucinations and delusions like everyone else did. You gave me the tools to fight.
We went to different colleges, but still kept in touch and hung out in the summer. Luckily, I was calm for the first year of college, which convinced me that everything that happened in high school was just due to stress, and (surprisingly) college wasn’t as stressful. It didn’t last, though, and once I was put on Prozac when I was taking a break from college, my mania and psychosis was so great that I started to self-harm. You wouldn’t know about that until later, bc I tried so desperately to hide it. I used to carry around a small tinkerbell lunch box with all the “supplies” I needed, so I could even cut at work if I felt I was on the verge of a breakdown.
I did go to the counseling center while at college. I had had so many previous diagnoses, so if I added another one to my list, so be it. The first “session” was just me filling out questionnaire after questionnaire. I went back a week later. The psychologist that had been assigned to me told me that every test said the same thing… I was a paranoid schizophrenic. I thought of you then. You believed that too… or you believed it was a very strong part of various mental illnesses. The psychologist, however, said that she saw that there was a second diagnoses that would fit, and that was Bipolar 1 with undifferentiated psychosis. So that was that. I went to a psychiatrist as I happened to be climbing up the ladder into mania. He was this German doctor who diagnosed me after 15 minutes. He didn’t care what I’d gone through in life, or that I had psychosis, and gave me 3 months worth of meds. No follow up appt.
I remember letting you know what was going on. You didn’t agree with them, but said if the medication helped, you wouldn’t question my diagnosis. Guess what? The meds didn’t work, and in the summer of 2002, I became Manic overnight. I hid it for three days (or hid it as best as possible), then the damn broke and everyone around me was so scared. I had an appointment the next day to see a doctor. By this point, I realized that no one was ever going to address the psychosis, so I never said anything about it. Again, Bipolar 1. I told you again, and you started to worry because it just didn’t seem right.
By the end of college, I was doing ok. My ex-girlfriend and I had been living together for our senior year… you know, she dumped me the first week of it. I freaked. I spiraled down again, but this time there was no one ready to catch me. She treated me horribly.
Of course, I’ve left off all the suicide attempts, but I really tend to ramble way too much when talking about them.
You were there when I started working after college. You were there when my Aunt died. You were there when I started to DJ. You were there through my experimentation with drugs. You were there when I lost my health insurance, and helped me fight against everything going on in my head. And you were there when I started taking meds again, and how horribly I was treating you.
Eventually, things settled down. I was still diagnosed with Bipolar 1 with undifferentiated psychosis. I lived with that for years. And in 2012, when I got the diagnoses of Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar 1 type, you immediately told me that it finally made sense.
So since 2012, since my having to quit my job, or isolate myself, or when social anxiety slammed like a freight train into my life, you comforted me. You knew my self-imposed isolation was taking a toll on my friendships (and I know that a lot of them will never be the same). You were there after my 2012 trip to the psych ward too. You watched my life change over the course of five years. You’ve always been someone that I could call after those psych ward visits, and at that point, your husband (fiance then?) started looking into advocacy programs that would help me out.
It’s been an exhausting 5 years. But no matter what was going on in your life, if I was in need, you were there. I still get panic attacks, hallucinations, delusions, nightmares, extreme social anxiety, and many other things. You’re still here. Always.
So thank you, Lauren, for being not just an instrumental part of my life, but for being a truly amazing friend.