Finally Knowing the Reason for My Distress
I think I always knew that I had a problem. When I was young I used to be afraid of everything. I stuck close to my parents and stayed home with my youngest brother Andrew who had cerebral palsy. While my other brother and sister went out and made friends, I was at home.
I hated school. I was bullied and didn't have friends until my senior year. I was a terrible student. I found things very confusing and took a long time to grasp concepts. I would stare off into space and zone out, missing entire portions of my class. I thought I had a learning disability or that something was wrong with my brain, but I just couldn't figure it out. I was afraid to talk on the telephone because of the people on the other end and what they thought about me. What they were saying about me were things that scared me.
It doesn't happen often, but sometimes while having a conversation with someone, I will be in mid-sentence and then I begin what I call “word salad” where I jumble up a bunch of nonsensical words that mean nothing. It’s embarrassing. I can hear myself saying it, but pretend I didn't do it.
I've attempted to go to school to change my career twelve different times, each time leaving for a different reason. My instructor was sabotaging me, I had chosen the wrong field to study, I wasn't smart enough, I didn't feel comfortable in my classes because the students were talking about me under their breath.
I've changed jobs about as many times as school. Left and came back four times at one job. At my last job prior to treatment, I worked with a small group of people who were as frightened of me as I was of them. I was manic and tried really hard to do a good job. I worked and spoke quickly, again speaking word salad, and could not understand why they weren't pleased with my hard work. One day I just fell apart, hallucinating and seeing blue dots all over the floor, ceiling and walls. I thought everyone at work was responsible. I left that job the same day and never returned. After talking to my priest, a criminal psychologist, about my experience, he gave me the name of a psychiatrist. This wasn't the first psychiatrist that I had been to, but the first to name my condition: schizoaffective disorder.
I began the challenge of finding the right medication to help my depression, mania, delusions, paranoia, hallucinations and anxiety. While waiting for relief, I became suicidal. I was at work and had the good sense to tell my supervisor, who took me to the emergency room where I was transferred to a hospital for behavioral health and substance abuse. I was there ten days while they played with my medication. For one week after being released, I had panic attacks every day, causing me to have fainting spells. I would pass out and end up in the emergency room. I thought I was going to get fired. I requested a change in shift from first to second shift, so I would not have to work with too many people.
After five years and two more psychiatrists, I finally have a mixture of medications that work for me. I read all the time about people wanting to get off their meds and take care of their mental illness without them, but for me medication is a necessity. I've needed medication for a long time, and without it I am not lucid.
Right now I'm taking my meds as I should. I know that down the line I'll probably have another break. I think it's inevitable. My symptoms seem to be cyclic and I don't know that I'm in trouble until I’m in the midst of it, when someone tells me something is wrong. I am grateful to be finally aware of my diagnosis. It is a relief to know that it was not my fault to have failed at the many things I've tried so hard to accomplish. For years I believed I was stupid and incompetent, when what I really am is resilient.