By Megan “Meg” Torre
Working through school while getting my diagnosis straight
My dad is a pigeon flyer and I can remember always being surrounded by pigeons when I would go outside and play. I never got involved with the pigeons though. It was sad losing my mom when I was eleven and she will always be in my heart. My dad got involved with his current girlfriend Lynne in 1999. Lynne is like a mother to me. She and my dad are always on top of me to get things done. I love my parents and they have always been there when I needed them.
I started my education at Calabro Primary School in Hoboken, New Jersey. While there I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. With this diagnosis I was sent to The Forum School, a school for children who have special needs. While there I participated in the Special Olympics and was heavily involved with the swim team. The Forum School gave me skills that will help me for the rest of my life.
My dad decided to pull me from Forum when I was in the eighth grade and send me to Academy of the Sacred Heart, which was an all-girls Catholic high school in Hoboken. I was always in trouble for my behavior and acting up. I signed up to be the sophomore class historian and because of my shenanigans, I had to resign. When junior year came I was hit hard with an overwhelming depression and was always in the guidance counselor’s office. In 2002 I was hospitalized for the first time in the child psych ward. I straightened up just enough in my senior year to be accepted to Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
When I started Rutgers I really did not care about my grades. My motto was get a “C” and go. I was more interested in frat parties. I loved alcohol. I started to write for the Rutgers’ newspaper The Daily Targum and that is when I decided to major in journalism and media studies.
I began to care more about school and made Dean’s List, my proudest achievement in college. However, in the summer between sophomore and junior year my drinking was picking up and I was beginning to think that I had bipolar disorder.
I went to see a Rutgers’ psychiatrist and she confirmed that I had bipolar disorder and told me that I was an alcoholic. The bipolar part I was totally down with, but being an alcoholic I wasn’t. At this point I had stopped writing for The Targum. I had my first hospitalization as an adult during the second half of my junior year. I was out of control with my illness and drinking. I did however study abroad in Spain in the summer of 2006, one of the greatest experiences of my life that opened me up to a new culture. I lied about how serious my mental illness was when I applied for the study abroad. I had an insane manic episode in Spain where I picked up a huge sidewalk block and swung it at people and a car. I wound up in the emergency room in Spain, but calmed down and was able to finish the trip.
I came back home and started my senior year and that is when the trouble with my illness started kicking me in the ass. I was hospitalized at least 20 times. I was asked to take leaves of absence by Rutgers’ counselors and people from residence. I cut my course-load down to part-time because I was not able to handle a full load or live on campus. I finally got sober July 8, 2008 and I am very proud to have 3 years of sobriety.
When I returned to school, I was able to get good grades in the two classes I signed up for. I would have semesters with mostly two classes only. I also took two semesters off. I wound up being committed twice in hospitals and would even spend a month in Greystone, a state hospital of New Jersey.
I had also been in various day programs. I was given a diagnoses of borderline personality disorder, which was incorrect. At Roosevelt Hospital I was given the diagnoses of schizoaffective disorder: bipolar type and I believe this diagnoses is correct. I would not tell the doctors that I was hearing voices and seeing things. I thought that people would think that I was insane. With the correct diagnoses, doctors are able to provide me with the right meds and care.
I took another leave of absence while I was at the Roosevelt program because I wanted to give my attention to the program. I believe that the Roosevelt program helped me a lot and Peter, my therapist, was one of the best therapists I’ve ever had.
I returned to school in spring of 2011 part-time. During that time I wound up in the hospital twice. However, my professors were understanding and gave me extra time on my work. I have found that when I told professors what was up they either went out of their way to help or just didn’t care. My professors gave me enough confidence to take two summer courses in the summer of 2011 and finish my college degree. I was able to participate in the May 2011 commencement, one of the high points in my life. Taking the train home that day I could not believe that I was finally done with my BA from Rutgers. The only thing I need now is a job. I have not been in the hospital since late April and I’m hoping that I will not be for a long, long time.
I do now currently have a job working at the Garden of Eden grocery store in Hoboken as a cashier. I am hoping that I will be able to do something more geared toward journalism in the future. I am thinking about going back to school to become a licensed clinical social worker. I will be looking very hard to get a job in either of one of these fields. I know I can do it, proving to myself already that I never give up in achieving my dreams, just like I never gave up on getting my BA.