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.
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.
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”