You would think that by 47 years old I would have gotten a clue. I always knew I was strange/different, sometimes worried that I was simply crazy. I had no friends and a partner that only stayed by my side because I could provide drug money. Blamed most of my problems on drugs and alcohol but sought no help for these addictions. Every 2-3 years I would either end up baker acted for suicide attempts or I would withdraw from the world to the point I lost my job(s) and apartment(s). I’ve been evicted more times than I can remember, ending up homeless. Then after about a month, I clean up my act, get a new job (always better paying then the last, a problem when you have addictions) really easy because I’m a self-taught programmer of a computer language in high demand and it pays better the more experienced you are, new apartment and begin the cycle all over.
Finally, last year nature took its course. Years of cocaine abuse, high stress and anxiety took their toll. I collapsed in the shower while getting ready for work. A subarachnoid hemorrhage due to an aneurysm bursting. An hour later I was in surgery and in a coma for 2 weeks after that. As part of my recovery process, I was put through a lot of neuropsychological testing to determine if I had any permanent brain damage. Well, I beat the odds (only a 20% change of living through that type of stroke without dying or being brain damaged). However, the psychiatrist who did my testing said that he believed I had Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) along with some comorbids. After doing some research, I had little doubt that he was right, the symptoms fit me perfectly, right down to my fascination with taking things apart as a kid (I must have cost my parents thousands in gadgets that I took apart, I mean really apart). He wasn’t quite sure what else since the tests were really designed to detect brain damage, but that I would probably benefit from a full work up when I got out. After I got out of the rehabilitation hospital (had to learn how to walk again after a month in bed) I did just that.
Well, not only did they confirm I had a gifted intelligence and had AS, but 4 other Axis 1 disorders to go with (a bunch of minor ones, mostly related to my AS). Now 3 of them are quite common with AS. They have something like a 40%-60% occurrence rate. Major Depressive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, and ADHD. I agreed with these, although I wasn’t too sure about the depression, after all, if you’re depressed long enough (probably since I was ten and realized just how different I was), you really don’t understand what a burden you’re laboring under. It was the final one though that really blew me away, Schizophrenia.
At first I thought they made a huge mistake with that one, after all, even though I’ve been homeless occasionally, I’m certainly not walking down the street muttering to myself and yelling everyone is out to get me (a common misconception btw). Then I started reading. And then I started thinking. And soon a light-bulb went off in my head. I really did have it. Every 2-3 years since I was 17 and on the street (long story, mother died and step dad kicked me out which probably triggered my first episode since they seem to be major stress related), I was experiencing a schizophrenic relapse before going back into remission. I masked a lot of the symptoms with drugs and alcohol, (and I firmly believe that the logical thinking style of AS helps with the severity of delusions), and when I couldn’t manage that, I simply tried to kill myself (deep down I knew all along that I was self-medicating something really serious and losing my mind is my greatest fear).
So now, a year later, I take in addition to my blood pressure medication, an anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and a central nervous system stimulant. And you know what? For the first time in my life, I felt like maybe there’s more to life then working for my drug money. I haven’t touched drugs since I started on my meds. Although I did have to be hospitalized during my most recent schizophrenic relapse, it was more to get my anti-psychotic to the right dose and get me stabilized on it. Now that I don’t do cocaine, I recognized the onset of the symptoms and realized that they were getting out of control. Although I considered suicide (I’d rather lose my life then my mind), I went in for help before I actually idealized it.
So even though I look back on my life with a lot of regret, it is no longer the regret that I was just a crazy drug addict wasting my life away. Now I regret that I didn’t get help a lot sooner. Even though they would not have recognized my AS back then, they would certainly have seen the Schizophrenia for what it was. So many years wasted because I was too afraid that they would simply call me crazy and lock me away.
There needs to be a lot more advocacies for the mentally ill. Too many are being warehoused in jails and prisons rather then getting the help and treatment they so desperately need. We waste billions keeping them in jail when millions would help keep them in treatment and remission.