Connections

Did you, too?

Have you been there?

Do you, really?

Thank you.

I’m glad you’re here.

I’m glad I’M here.

This is work.

I want to get better.

I wish I could sleep.

I sleep too much.

I’m ready to commit to that.

I’m ready to quit.

I trust you.

Thank you for being there for me.

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Strong

Experience.

A light bulb turns on.

Words flow like breathing.

Comfortable.

Fellow warriors

Keeping each other company.

Along for the ride,

Together.

Be there for you,

Whenever you need someone.

Any time, any place.

Trust me.

I’ll hold out a light

So you can see your way.

Brothers and sisters

Of mental illness.

Strong.

Mental, Part 3

Filling out all the paperwork once I was heavily medicated and in need of social services was a challenge. My dad helped me a lot with that as well as staying organized and getting my thoughts in order. He helped me apply for Dial-a-Ride, which was a must for appointments, since sometimes I couldn’t drive.

When I was in the hospital and they were trying to figure out what to do with me, two options kept coming up: being referred to UF Health Shands and ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). After several months of no improvement, I asked my psychiatrist for a referral to Shands Psychiatric. That would mean a two and a half hour drive, and my appointments were usually late afternoon, which meant an overnight stay in a motel.

Shands had me seeing an intern, with consultation during each visit with a resident doctor. They put me on trazadone for sleep, which helped a lot. Just before I had transferred to Shands my psychiatrist put me on perphenazine, an antipsychotic that would also help with sleep. I tried Shands for about six months, then I started thinking about ECT and going back to my local psychiatrist.

I did a consultation with the ECT doctor and he mentioned Buspirone, which is a non addictive anxiety med. He approved me for ECT, and Jackie’s Mom and my Dad volunteered to be drivers, coming from out of town and staying in our guest bedroom, switching off each week. After the 14th treatment, my memory had taken a plunge and I was still depressed. The doctor recommended stopping there.

I went back to my regular psychiatrist and since the ECT doctor had taken me off the anticonvulsants, Depakote and Gabapentine, they decided to try an old combination that had worked pretty well for a while, Zyprexa and Prozac (Olanzapine and Fluoxetine). Then he put me on Buspirone as well. I had been having mini anxiety attacks with a burning sensation all over my body and my body shook when talking about thoughts and emotions. The Buspirone stopped all that, along with a three times daily dose of propanolol, another anxiety med that I had been on since Shands.

We asked my shrink about memory loss. He suggested referring me to a neurologist. I went to see the neurologist, and he put me through a bunch of tests and memory function was very low, so he started me on a dose of Donepezil. After two months he tested me again and I went from a 70 to a 100 out of 130. He declared it a success.

Back in the Fall of 2017, I started the legal administrative specialist program at Lively Technical School. I had a hard time with the memorization at first, but by the Spring semester I went from D’s and F’s on quizzes, to A’s and B’s. I was very encouraged by my progress. Vocational Rehab was paying for my tuition and books, and after two rejections my SSDI case went to a hearing and I was approved, just as my long term disability coverage was about to run out.

That November my grandmother passed away and a month later I found my friend Curt dead in his house. He had a bad infection in his legs and his body went into sepsis. When I found him all the lights in the house were off and he was laying face up on the floor in his bedroom, with his eyes and mouth wide open. It was a little unsettling, to say the least.

Mental, Part 2

In 2001, I was in grad school for library science and having trouble with group work. I got into an argument online, then felt embarrassed and ashamed and had thoughts of ramming my truck into a brick wall. Instead I admitted myself to the behavioral health center and got on different meds. This was also when I started seeing a psychotherapist. The same one I see to this day. It’s been 17 years now.

Another thing that contributed to my previous crisis was my psychiatrist took me off my heavily sedating meds and put me on something that allowed me to feel and express my feelings better. I eventually got used to it and my mother in law described me as a flower opening up. After that, I was stable for 15 years.

I started on a downturn when I was working in the yard and got into some poison ivy. I went to a dermatologist, and they didn’t look at my chart. They prescribed Prednisone, and it wreaked havoc with my mood. I changed medications numerous times, but I became more and more unstable.

In the Fall of 2015, my doctor wanted to make some major changes in my meds, and we agreed that the best course of action was for me to be hospitalized. I admitted myself to the behavioral health center and it went pretty well, except I didn’t get much sleep. At the end of the week I finally started sleeping through the night and they released me.

I went back to work, but being in the mental hospital again had changed how I saw myself. My confidence and self esteem dropped significantly, and I couldn’t focus or concentrate. I then applied for Family and Medical Leave and was out of work until December. During the time I was on FMLA, I didn’t do much. I was very emotional and fought with my wife, Jackie. She was distraught and didn’t know what to do. I started seeing an art therapist, and doing a lot of marker drawing of abstract designs.

When I returned to work, I wasn’t ready. I was extremely anxious and I couldn’t focus or concentrate. I tried for a few weeks, but showed no improvement. I started getting paranoid about my supervisor and fellow employees, thinking they were judging me and being critical of me. I started to regret being so honest about my mental illness. I knew my boss didn’t really understand, but it wasn’t her fault.

One day in mid-January, I didn’t go to work. I stayed home and wrote an essay entitled, “I’m a Human Being, Not a Robot!” I was tired of the way numbers of production and money were the basis for everything. I was interested in quality, but quantity was valued much more. Jackie texted me but I didn’t respond. She tried calling me, but I didn’t answer. Finally, she got a ride home with Uber and she came in furious. I hadn’t even called work to say I wasn’t coming in. She figured I was manic, and she told me I was going to the behavioral health center.

I went along with it at first, but after I was there a couple days, I got angry and wanted out. I didn’t like how I was being treated. Jackie and the social worker arranged a family meeting, and I broke down. I cried for a long time. The psychiatrist changed my code to compulsory, which was like a Baker Act for someone already admitted and my wife signed it.

I had a hard time this go round. I clashed with the nurses and the social workers, and I seriously considered filing grievances. I was also having a hard time with the group therapy. I was so sensitive to everything said, and it was overwhelming. Finally, I asked the social worker if they could give me something to turn my brain off. I just couldn’t take it anymore. We discussed some of the meds I was on back in 1996. Risperdal. Depakote. They gave me really strong doses and put me in a blocked room that was not normally used. They gave me permission to be in the day room to journal and do art during group time.

I talked to the music therapist and she suggested I meet with the chief officer of the hospital. Later that week she came by and introduced herself, but we didn’t discuss any issues. I got really sad one day and cried in my room. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be free again. That day I didn’t go to eat lunch and the med nurse tried to talk me into eating. She brought me a sandwich and I ate. Then I remembered that my family had brought me snacks and drinks, so I started asking for them.

I refused to go to the cafeteria for meals. I didn’t like the atmosphere. One time they made me go. I had a hard time figuring out what to do and I didn’t eat much. One night I started to get delirious and started to think about suicide. I told the chief nurse and she gave me a sedative. She tried to get me to go to sleep but I wouldn’t cooperate. After that happened, the chief officer never came back.

Eventually, I started to sleep through the night. I couldn’t think well, and my speech was slurred. I even requested a wheel chair because my legs would get weak sometimes. Once I was calm and stopped acting out, they started to prepare to release me. When I got home I eventually put in for a medical retirement. I filed for long term disability through my job, and called an attorney they referred me to about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Mental, Part 1

In 1996, I invited myself to the nuthouse. Not the lengthy stay one, but the one referred to as a crisis unit. The first time I went I got in all sorts of trouble for writing down violent fantasies about others, including a woman I had made friends with.

The shrink I was matched with had already decided that I was just having thoughts, not in danger of acting on them. He told me that I didn’t need to be afraid of my thoughts, because that’s all they were. But apparently one of the chief nurses didn’t get the memo, because she made me sit down with my friend and tell her face to face about these violent thoughts, as if I was planning it all out or something. The chief nurse told me I had to stay away from her from then on.

The next day the psychiatrist told the nurse I was not a danger, and he even went as far as blocking my reentry the next time I attempted to be admitted. So I had to go to a different nuthouse, and this time I didn’t write down any violent fantasies and I stuck to my story that I had a plan to hurt a young girl. It really wasn’t true, but I had learned a little bit about how the system works and being a highly self-critical chap that I am I didn’t have to try very hard to convince myself.

I went back to that place once or twice, and the last time my insurance company made me move to a cheaper unit that was mostly for people Baker-Acted for drunk and disorderly conduct. Before I was moved I succeeded in getting into bed with one of the female clients, she wanted to fool around, but not involving her body below the belly button. I also taught a member of the staff to play chess. That was fun. When they moved me to the other unit, I was extremely anxious and my body would shake. It was difficult to eat, even harder to sleep. My roommate was having withdrawals, and it was scary to watch. I dreaded being there so much I tried to call a good friend in another city, five hundred miles away, who was a policeman, to get me out. He said he couldn’t do anything about it, so I resigned myself to sticking it out.

The last time that year, I was in occupational therapy, and the staff member confronted me about my numerous admittances there and said how I needed to make a decision to do whatever it took to rectify my situation. From then on I decided to see a psychiatrist and make sure I took my medicine. It would be five years until I would admit myself again, that time, for thoughts of suicide.