My Story of Mental Illness

I started hearing voices in high school but I never told my counselor at school because I was afraid she would send me to the hospital. Kids at my school who came back from hospital had strange prescriptions for medications with strange names. I was a newspaper editor and in theatre group and already a little strange. I didn’t need to be a class oddity.

In freshman year of college, I went into a full-blown mania without knowing what was going on. At the end of the second semester of university, I was hospitalized acutely manic staying up for five nights in a row. I was diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar 1 with psychotic features.

I was hospitalized three more times during a year and a half period—taken out of my dorm room screaming on a stretcher. I refused to take meds because of the bad side effects like weight gain and palsey in my hands which kept me away from the photography darkroom. Somehow, I managed to graduate magna cum laude with a degree in journalism.

I got a job after college as a news reporter at a biweekly newspaper on the Connecticut shoreline. I excelled at reporting and writing stories. However, once again I experienced extreme mood swings, auditory and visual hallucinations, agitation, irritablity, and paranoia. I lost this job and had an acute mania landing me in the hospital for two weeks.

A year later, I got into the prestigious Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. I flew out to Chicago a bit hypomanic, but ended up getting psychotic, manic and extremely anxious. Two weeks later, I was asked to leave.

For the next two years, I flew into manias and depressions largely untreated or given the wrong treatments. I finally found a therapist who was able to help me live more normally through the use of DBT, dialectical behavioral therapy. I began working on my first Master’s in Writing and then a second Master’s. After I graduated, I moved back to Connecticut where the first thing I did was find a new psychiatrist.

After taking my history, the doctor prescribed lithium and Abilify, which I had never been on yet, and I take faithfully to this day.

I met the most amazing man and got married almost six-years-ago. He understands my reservation about having children, passing the genetic components of mental illness along and with the complications of my illness and pregnancy. I do not know if children are in our future. But we do have a good, happy, fun marriage. After I lost a friend to suicide a few years ago, I wrote a novella entirely in poetry about healing from suicide. I also managed and wrote NAMI-CT’s annual report for 2015.

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