My story begins at the age of about 7. That is around the time when I began having suicidal ideation and creating the plans for committing suicide.
Fast forward to 2004, I was a junior in college, had a great GPA, but had no direction.
Enter my first major meltdown. I had to do a medical withdrawal from the university, thereby losing my job at the university as a student receptionist. I spent about 2 months in my house, crying constantly, awake all the time, but unable to leave the house. I finally recovered from that episode and went back to school, where I would continue with no direction for another 2-3 years. I finally settled on psychology as my major and began working full time at a level 1 sub-acute psychiatric facility as a behavioral health para-professional, or as we called it in the facility BHPP or floor person. I was 23 at the time, and had no real understanding of or experience with mental illness. So naturally, I convinced myself that what I had gone through was not mental illness because I was not like the people that I was working with.
At the age of 25, I had a reality check. A lot of stressful and emotionally painful events happened all at once, and I had another meltdown, except this one was serious. Crying, I took a loaded handgun and put it to my forehead with my finger on the trigger, ready to end the pain that I was feeling at the time. But when I closed my eyes, I had one of those “life flashing before my eyes” type experiences, in which I saw all the people that I would hurt if I pulled the trigger. I put the gun down and called the therapist that I had been seeing. Naturally, she called 911 and they made me go to the emergency room.
While I was at the emergency room, the doctor insisted that I go to a behavioral health facility. I was extremely hesitant for three reasons. One, I didn’t think that I really needed to go, because I thought that I was okay to just go home. Two, I wasn’t like the people that I worked with. Three, where could I possibly go and not run into former patients from my facility. At any rate, we found a facility that I could go to with little to no chance of running into a former patient and I agreed to go with a lot of convincing.
It was that 6-day stay at that behavioral health facility that changed my life and view of the world around me. Suddenly I wasn’t a BHPP anymore, I was a patient. I didn’t have the badge anymore or the responsibilities that came with it, I was a patient. I was exactly what I had told myself that I wasn’t. Until then I was looking through the glass from the outside, peering into the world of the people that I worked with. Now I was looking through the glass from the inside, peering out with renewed vision.
I was given the diagnosis of bipolar disorder during my stay at the hospital. I was released from the hospital and finally went back to work with that renewed vision. An understanding of what it meant to live with a mental illness. For a while I felt the stigma that went along with a diagnosis. I felt that if anyone knew, I would be treated differently.
But working with the patients at the CRU helped me a lot on my road to recovery. I learned from them as much as they learned from me. I suddenly began to feel a renewed passion to help them realize that they could recover and go on with their lives as I had recovered and gone on with my life.
I stayed in the field for another couple years and took with me the memories of all the people that I helped along the way and how they also helped me without even knowing it.
I am now 29 years old (soon to be the big 3-0). I finished my BS in Psychology online, as this was less stressful for me, so I was able to excel. I have since moved on from working in the psych field to pursue my other career options and obtained an MS in Criminal Justice.
I have learned through the years with the help of my therapist and my psychiatric nurse practitioner how to live with my mental illness and not be ashamed it.
While I am a person with mental illness, the illness does not define who I am.