Where to begin? I am writing this letter to give a glimpse of what a mental illness can do to a life, and the joy in fighting back. For starters, I believed this would never happen to me. I was a firm believer that everyone should be treated according to what they can give to God, family, and/or society. Since I have been diagnosed with schizo-affective, bi-polar, and generalized anxiety disorder what I can give has changed; not what God can give. You may want an explanation as to what the diagnosis of schizo-affective, bi-polar, as well as generalized anxiety disorder. Schizo-affective borrows from schizophrenia while bi-polar brings in the mood disorder and generalized anxiety disorder causes a lot of phobias that can be so intense they cause people to freeze up as if unable to stop or move them. I have always had to battled depression my whole life; but I never in a million years would I have guessed I would be diagnosed with such a serious life altering disease. Never would I have thought I have to fight so hard for mental stability. These days I am glad to have peace within and God all around.
It all hits with a vengeance! I started having vivid nightmares about demons and terrible things in May 2006. I suddenly found myself obsessing during my last semester at the college with which I earned my degree; Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. It was as simple as seeing something on TV or reading it in a book. I would stay awake for days with this thought of dying in some tragic way. I would close my eyes only to see images in my head; images like dying of some flesh-eating bacteria, or worse. It wasn’t until I moved out on my own that I started seeing shadowy apparitions in my living room and even one instance of hearing voices.
The worst ensues! Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to find a second job, the symptoms got worse and worse. I was spiraling out of control towards an outcome that scared me to death. I did not want to end up in a permanent mental institution. I prayed for God to take this burden from me; to what seemed no avail. I would be lying if I didn’t say “Why God did you leave me?” I felt like someone was out to kill me; so I begged for money to go home for Christmas. I left in such a hurry that it looked as if someone broke in and sacked the place. Once home, the symptoms worsened. It went from anxiety, dying of tragic diseases, seeing shadowy ghosts, to responding to images in my head. They were as vivid as ever which caused me to focus heavily on them and not me. I started spending hours in my head with no one knowing. I would neglect appearances, ignore people around who wanted to help, and finally (when no one was home), have screaming matches with what was in my head.
It all crumbles! I spent the first of several nights in a hospital trying medicines to calm nerves, and control the all crippling psychosis. I ended up in and out of three different hospitals before the above mentioned diagnosis. They at first diagnosed schizophrenia with bipolar disorder; then after seeing a doctor with whom to follow up with the diagnosis of schizo-affective, bipolar, GAD. I finally had a concrete diagnosis, as well as medicines that helped. I was so depressed at first because of the weight gain of over 100pounds. I let down my friend and co-signer, whom I owe money. I was default and in judgement by the time I was awarded SSI. I was ready to throw in the towel when I was introduced to the PSR (Psychosocial Rehabilitation program) known as LifeQuest, Inc.
Tides bring new view and better health! I was so nervous and unsure about anything out there because at this point the medication had taken away half of the symptoms. But getting to the other half was a long progress. I was hoping to have it be a quick in and out affair. It has turned out to be the best thing because not only was I in a place with others with similar disorder; I was placed in a wellness class and art class. I applied my faith to my recovery, by acknowledging that Jesus is the answer to all the demonic things I hear and see.
World’s most patient Mom! NOW, I would not have made it to LifeQuest Inc. were in not for my Mother. She is a God send and a constant in my life; always there to fix things when I am down. I wouldn’t have made through all the heartbreak without her kind wisdom and advice. She with the help of a social worker that I was seeing brought me to LifeQuest, Inc. After going through months of helpful insight I learned that I have a long way to go. I, also learned that medicine can only bring you part of the way towards a set of lost goals. I make what is to me, small goals. I used to dream about being in a leadership position in great companies; now I dream about getting my health back to where it was before schizo-affective started.
Do you have a HOBBY! I remember thinking when I heard this, “Have you gone mad?” Here I am fighting voices, depression, as well as other symptoms and they’re asking me to have a hobby or a craft. What I learned is that hobbies pass time. The more you allot time to them, the less time you’ll spend daydreaming and venturing off into psychosis. One such Hobby is Photography. I was lucky enough to get published in the newspaper, as well as on WITN. I hope to exchange cameras soon in order to continue my hobby. It was this hobby that took up most of my time and kept me sane. Photography still sees me through the darkest times.
Fight Back! Don’t sit there and say, “this is not working to manage my symptoms!”, when you haven’t even given the weekly goals a try. They, the staff at LifeQuest, Inc., can’t do the goals for you; it is something that you have to do on your own. The small stuff leads to long term goals which leads to hopes and dreams. I was thinking, “okay I got meds that work for about 92% of the problems and a PSR to guide to the goal of 99.9% symptom free”. Wrong, I still have a lot goals to work towards and that takes time, and Jesus. I pray a lot these days and all the while I hear, “I am with you always”. I have found that while they help at LifeQuest Inc.; they can’t do anymore than what you and God will allow. I was told to say “I rebuke you satan in the name of Jesus and command you to leave this house” by Mom and a friend. I find the most comfort resting in His arms these days. I am always amazed by God’s strength and love. I, for the first time in years, can sleep in the dark and go get water in the dark. God has brought me through most of the pain and suffering; now I have to do the rest of the work.
My name is Joseph. I have a mental illness that breaks down into three separate yet integrated diagnosis. The first is major depressive disorder which is is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. Anxiety is a disorder characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry, that is, apprehensive expectation about events or activities. Then I have schizotypal disorder which is a mental disorder characterized by severe social anxiety, paranoia, and often unconventional beliefs. I am 31 years old currently living in a group home and attend LifeQuest which is a PSR or Psychosocial Rehabilitation. PSR programs encourage the process of restoration of community functioning and well-being of an individual diagnosed in mental health or mental or emotional disorder,and who may be considered to have a psychiatric disability.
My first experience with depression
was around the time my parents separated at age 5, and I was introduced to
heavy anxiety as I adjusted to new family members. After I graduated in 2003, I shipped off to
basic training as I enlisted in the United States Navy. I loved the Navy and being in the Navy. I went through basic training at Great Lakes,
and then flew to
When I got home, I moved back in with mom and applied for unemployment. It would take me several months to find employment. Luckily, I found a job as a dishwasher at a locally owned restaurant. It also had a sports bar, and I was introduced to the world of alcohol. I was invited after work to hang with the guys, and that one beer turned into several over the course of a year. I got fired because I was partying too much, and missed too many shifts. In a year, I was locked up, and in trouble with the law.
I won’t give any specifics, but it was bad. I had mixed beer with my anti-depressants and I wasn’t looking or feeling good. I started hallucinating and my depression got worse. My friends bailed me out, and they suggested that I join a group home until I got myself straight. Over the course of several years, I lived in three group homes and have been hospitalized half a dozen times due to depression. I lost five family members inside of four years. The first was the hardest, was seeing my dad pass. I saw him take his last breath, right in my arms. My two granddads, my grandmother and one aunt died over the next four years. I have my mom and my grandmother left. I have aunts and uncles, but the immediate family was shrinking.
I currently have been dry of alcohol for several years. I have been attending LifeQuest for 5 years, a PSR located in Washington, North Carolina. I live in a group home, and I have a job within the PSR. I’ve been recommended to regain my guardianship and to begin the process of merging back into society. My name is Joseph and I have a mental illness. I have it, but it is not my name, my title, or label. I am not mental illness, I have a mental illness. I accept that it does not define me.