My Ticking Time Bomb

I didn’t want to write this.

No, really, I DIDN’T want to write this. But I feel like a coward NOT writing it. It might cause a backlash, but I’m still going to do it.

Okay.

There has been a great deal of talk since the horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT about mental health reform. As someone with a bevy of mental illnesses and a Masters Degree in Social Work, I know a lot about the mental health system, and let me tell you something.

It sucks.

I will not speak of  the shooter in Newtown. I don’t know him, I get all my information about him from the mainstream media, just like almost everyone else in the world. What I AM going to talk about is my experience with the mental health system, especially psych medication. And it’s not pretty. First, full disclosure.

I was first diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality disorder when I was in alcohol rehab in 2008. I’ve been on psych meds on and off for even longer, starting in 2001. That was for major depressive disorder. Other labels I’ve been given run the gamut from anxiety and panic disorders to various eating disorders, self-harm, OCD and PTSD. I’ve been called so many things over the years that the words mean little to nothing to me any more. I’ve been on disability for my various illnesses for a few years now. I’ve spent time in psych wards eight times. I cannot possibly list or count how many psych medications I’ve been on. I often falter in my sobriety when I am depressed, manic, or paranoid. I am often a mess, psychologically. I can’t keep a romantic relationship. Over the years, I’ve lost friendships and strained with many other friends. My family is at the end of their rope.

I feel like there’s a bomb inside of me.

I hate writing about all of this because frankly, people can be cruel. I’ve been called every name in the book, mostly on Twitter, and people have spewed vitriol that made me erase tweet after tweet with my heart in my throat, embarrassed and ashamed. With mental illness comes stigma. With addiction comes shame, guilt, and severe judgement from others. With being on government assistance comes real, true hate and disgust.

I don’t want to write this.

I also am not looking for sympathy, pity, or coddling. Absolutely not. I put that bottle to my lips. I’ve fucked around with my meds countless times. I’ve skipped therapy, kept my mouth shut when I shouldn’t in group therapy, and hidden and lied a ghastly amount of times. I deserve no sympathy, pity, or coddling.

But I have to say this about the mental health system as I have experienced it. It’s terrifying. Psych hospitalizations can be a nightmare of uncaring, unqualified, overworked, underpaid, helpless, frazzled workers. It’s nearly impossible to find a therapist who takes Medicare. And then there are the meds.

Taking psych meds is like playing Russian Roulette. It took eleven years for me to find a cocktail of meds that work for me. And they could stop working at any time. I’ve experienced every side effect from severe weight gain to full blown psychosis. And because there is no exact science, my cocktail could be lethal for another person. There is no exact science to any of it. To make things worse, I have never once had a psychiatrist or pharmacist talk to me about side effects. That is left up to the patient, and the list of side effects for many psych meds can be endless, ranging from dry mouth to suicidal/homicidal thought and actions.

There’s a bomb inside of me.

I don’t know if there will ever be a definitive answer to psych medications. I know I cannot function at ALL without them. I think Tom Cruise is an uninformed moron. I also know that there have been tragic results to people taking them. I know people who would be dead without them.

I know that some of the people who I have met and befriended in psych wards are some of the kindest people in the world, and I am proud to know them. I know that there are psych professionals who bend over backwards for their clients and patients. I know I have friends and family who have been there when I need them the most, over and over and over.

I know there are no answers. But there has to be more research, more funding, and most of all more understanding that something more has to be done about mental health in America. Because there is a bomb inside my brain, and I wake up every day wondering if it will go off.

I didn’t want to write this.

But I’m glad I did.

Dedicated to all my friends from “the bin”


Comments

My Ticking Time Bomb — 17 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for writing this. My mother has schizophrenia and I wrote today about the stigma against mental illness. The stigma creates layers of denial and misunderstanding, making it even more difficult for people to get the help they need. Our language surrounding mental illness is casually derogatory (are you nuts? that’s crazy!) and I’m not surprised (but very sorry) to hear that you receive xenophobic hate comments on twitter. If you have a chance, please read my post linked below and thanks again for writing yours. It’s only when we speak our truths that mental illness will be de-mystified and we begin to understand the scope of the issue.
    Kat / @beingmama last post: De-stigmatizing mental illness

  2. Absolutely right there’s stigma! Finding care is so difficult. I was absent one day from work last week because I was suicidal and on Monday my boss (gently) berated me, knowing the reason why I had to be off he told me I was unreliable (in so many words). People just think one is lazy, weak, or faking it if you have mental health issues. My parents think that. But I work hard, about 44 hours or so a week. It’s just sometimes I don’t want to live anymore in constant pain, physical and mental. I honestly look forward to the peace of death. All I have energy for is to work. I hate life somtimes. It just sucks. Meds didn’t work for me the eight years I was on them. Had this thing managed for a while but too much has happened this year. Too much.

  3. As a clinical psychologist, I appreciate your courage in writing this. As someone who has struggled with MDD for 40 years, I know something of your struggle. Stay strong

  4. One of the problems with mental health is the shame that comes with it. We all need to find a little more love and less shame / finger pointing / etc. Acceptance, caring, inclusion, and love can go a long way in caring for those that need to be reached. I never want those I care for that deal with this to feel coddled or pitied – just understood and cared for when the “cocktail” of meds fails them. I don’t know what the answer is but I am so very proud of you. Proud that you continually get back up when knocked down. Proud that you wrote this. Don’t be afraid to write this. You are a beacon of hope for those that continue to struggle (as we all do). Thank you, sweet girl. Much love.

  5. I had my massive breakdown this summer…I haven’t taken meds in years because I thought I could handle my over active squirrel brain..but alas I went into early menopause 2 years ago and turned into a raging ,evil,hateful,raging,hot flash,no sleep having screaming hot mess..I tried to hide it but alas I couldn’t take it,nor could my husband and kids so I went to the doctor…after a ton of blood work and my wonderful doctor who saw me every week for 2 months to tweak my meds.the squirrels have quieted…I take a combo of 5 drugs nightly and I also have the panic attack pills for when I need them…I no longer dread life,the self loathing,the anger and yes those fucking hot flashes are gone..I was lucky to find the caring doctor I have who explained that I’m Bi Polar but it’s not the end of he world..still the black cloud of shame having a mental disorder still follows me as I hide my fear everyone will find out and look at me like I’m batshit crazy..our mental health systems suck unless your lucky enough to have great insurance,the fear the meds stop working,the fear of failure and the fear I’ll snap looms over me daily but I just take it day by day like you…keep your hin and and repeat to yourself daily that you are loved and you will try hard today…your not alone,there’s lots of us out there ;)

  6. Very brave words. I hope that you have a great holiday and know you have lots of readers who think you are lovely and funny. Thank you for your posts, funny and not funny – I think they are all fabulous.

  7. Danielle, my sweet friend, I will always fucking be there. Always. I read this post and found myself thinking, so damn often, “Yes. exactly”. I have been lucky, I have never needed to be hospitalized. But I have had that horrible experience of being completely non-functional, of having to wonder if the challenges of staying alive on this planet are worth it. If anyone really gives a damn.

    I’ve had psych drug cocktails poop out on me. And it was you, my friend, who gave me the fucking courage to say something. I specifically remember the post when you wrote about what happened when you were in LA for the last time and your words stuck in my head. So when the Prozac didn’t work anymore, when I didn’t want to get out of bed at all– I said something. I had a Primary Care Doctor who listened and didn’t make me wait for a Psych referral. She made the difference.

    And that is my point– you made the Difference to me, Danielle. I hope you stay in my World. I love you so much.

    Nadine who is also there.

  8. I have always loved how honest you are. I am glad you write. Hope you have a Merry Christmas, a wonderful time with family and remember there are many who love you.

  9. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for you to write this. Thank you for doing it any way. I have been a mental health worker and I have a 17 yo daughter that is bipolar and has been hospitalized 4 times. If I didn’t have my background, I shudder to think how she would be doing. The things you say are important. Thank you so much for your willingness to be honest and open.

  10. Overly affectionate, borderline inappropriate internet hugs to you. I can only guess at the courage it took for you to write this, and I wanted you to know it is very much appreciated. Lots of love to you.

  11. I stumbled across your wonderful blog recently, and am de-lurking to say: thank you. Thank you for all your writing, for making the effort to say things out loud for the rest of us to share, and thank you for being there. It helps.

    I am the (some days more questionably than others) adult daughter of a mother who struggles with mental illness, and I cannot even begin to describe how lucky I am that my mother never had a gun, and how terrifying I find it that she could run right out at any moment and buy one. I am not making a blanket statement about how the mentally ill “should” be treated, I am just saying that a gun in my mother’s hands would be a thing of terror, and I hope she never has one. I mostly cope on a functional-ish level with all the things that happened before my mother became reliably medicated (a situation that has its own oh-so-many drawbacks and side effects but is necessary for her survival), but I still have fairly frequent nightmares about violent and scary things that happened when we were young. I very much doubt that my brother or I would still be here if there had been a gun in the house during our childhood, and I am glad to be here.

    Your blog reminds me that we can survive things and sometimes even transform survival into joy. As someone who actively spends a large amount of time and energy avoiding the billion and one things that remind me of horror or our inhumanity to each other (subjects I need no help whatsoever keeping front and center), I am humbled and happy on the rare occasions when I find something like your blog that reminds me of the opposite, of hope and kindness and survival in the face of dark times. Thank you for sharing your voice.

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