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Mental Illness- Through Eyes Of Those Affected

Stories & Advice From Those Who Know
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The best education is life experience.  Here you will find stories of those who have suffered mental illness and will offer their stories for you to read, in hopes they will provide better understanding.  As well, these stories will offer up a sense of feeling for those you deal with daily.
 
I assure you that everyday of your life you pass someone who suffers mental illness.  Whether it's the customer service rep, attorney, teacher, or whomever, you speak to on the telephone... to the grocery store manager, nurse, Doctor, Dentist or anyone else you may pass on the street. 
 
No one is exempt at any moment in their lives.  Mental illness strikes in even the most wonderful lives.  Mental illness crosses all boundaries, all incomes, from the poor to the multibillionaires.  Remember that always.
 
Embrace some of the stories below.  If you have your own story to tell, it WILL help someone else along the way. Pease feel free to send it to MagicaChoices1@aol.com   You may sign it or make it anonymous, it doesn't matter, but please know that your story will help someone.

 

 

College: Involuntary Exposure Therapy

by Jared Kant

The first day I woke up in my college dorm, around this time last year, I realized that I had to do the unthinkably distressing: I was going to have to shower in the same stall as thirty other people I didn't even know. Granted, I had the luxury of not having to be in the stall with them at the same time; but I couldn't not imagine every microbe crawling around on the tile grout, waiting to anchor in my feet and hands, and just kill me before I could even start class.

The thing is, I wasn't going anywhere. What can you do at college? It's extraordinarily expensive to buy your own shower, and I don't think it would be worth the money. Besides, it was just OCD after all ... I did it though, I conquered that monolith, and I was clean. I was so proud of myself; I simply brushed off the complaints from my fellow dorm mates that I had single-handedly drained the entire hot water supply for the next six hours or more.

Jared Kant

When you have class early in the morning, you can't take your long showers, clean your room compulsively, and you certainly can't go through a full regime of rituals unless you want to frighten your roommate into giving you a single. Having a roommate is a really big deal even for someone without OCD, let alone a real basket case like myself: I had to tell my roommate a couple of things I didn't feel like telling him. After getting through with explaining what OCD was and what it really, really was not, he seemed rather cool about the idea. Only once did I catch him on the phone telling his mother in hushed Spanish that, "Mother, my new roommate is a little crazy." I let it slide though. I just waited until he left the room to tell my parents the same thing about him.

The orientation week was easy. I learned to shower in an infested stall shared by half the world, I educated my roommate on the lighter side of living with an abnormal college kid, and I managed to make some friends on campus. It's too bad that I knew for an absolute fact that every one of them was looking at the "tattoo" on my forehead that said "Obsessive Compulsive." I could see it in their faces. It wasn't paranoia, and I'm certain that it wasn't the jet black hair or the half inch spikes on my choker. It had to be the fact that I had OCD. They knew I was really weird and that I did stupid things over and over.

I was ruined. So, I just hung in there. I didn't have a choice.

It isn't like I could just go home and wait for the world to grow up and get educated. I went to classes, and I did my work. Because I don't drink, I found a niche that made me indispensable. I was the "go to" guy who would guide people back to their rooms after hours when they couldn't see straight. Finally, I was comfortable enough to ask what everyone thought about how I was, "you know, different." The girl I was talking to was one of my closest friends on campus, and I felt I could trust her to give me the low-down on how everyone thought I was a basket case.

She had no idea what the heck I was talking about. She hadn't a clue. I decided that she must've missed the tattoo.

I got to thinking about this. One day I was dumping my contents of my trash can into the extremely infested, plague-ridden community trash can/dumpster; and I caught myself holding my nose. More accurately, someone else did. Before I could stop myself, someone asked me, "Hey, what's wrong, don't like the smell of everyone else's filth?"

"Um, err, kind of."

I had just made the mistake of opening my mouth near the trash can, potentially letting in the deadly spores of other college kids. I was doomed and I couldn't run for the safety of Listerine while this other kid watched me. Trapped, again. Around that very moment, the words of my CBT therapist rang through my head, and I started taking deep breaths. I was breathing in the fragrant air of stale cigarettes, coffee stained term papers, stale beer, and the bubonic plague. It felt like my brain was on fire. I almost started shaking in the hallway right there. I had also forgotten about the kid still watching me. Maybe it was time to be a little honest. I told him, "Hey man, it's a germ thing. This place is a little ... infested."

He smiled, made a joke about how I was acting like I had "severe OCD or something crazy like that." As he was walking away, I started laughing really hard and yelled: "Yeah, something like that. See you around."

 

 

A Mother Helped Others
Even When She Couldn't Help Her Son

 Helen Greggans had some good news in October: Her son was in San Mateo General Hospital in California.

After two years on the streets, her 38-year-old son, who has suffered from schizophrenia for nearly 20 years, was finally back in the mental health system. Today, he lives in Belmont and sees a psychiatrist regularly. He is thinking about getting a job.

Greggans, who is president of the local chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has helped others get treatment for their loved ones, but helping her schizophrenic son had eluded her for years.

He simply did not think he was sick. And she had no legal recourse to force him into treatment. That is why NAMI has lobbied for Laura's Law, a 2000 state law that allows a court to order treatment for the mentally ill.

Like the typical person Laura's Law is meant to target, Greggans' son had been in and out of hospitals and jails over the years.

Greggans is not sure why he was taken into the hospital in October, except that he was acting crazy. And he probably would have been released back on the street if she hadn't intervened. She rushed to the hospital with her son's medical records and convinced the staff to keep him there.

To help get through the difficult times, Greggans joined the San Mateo County Chapter of NAMI eight years ago. It was the first affiliate in the nation when it began almost 30 years ago.

The group offers support to the mentally ill and their families and lobbies for better care. Through NAMI, Greggans has fought for more rights for family members and more authority to get the mentally ill treated. She said this means giving the courts authority to order the mentally ill into treatment. It means better coordination between police and social workers, psychiatrists and family members.

Greggans said her son, the middle child, was always shy. But at 19 -- when he first became depressed -- she took him to the family doctor. An example of the ignorance of the time, the doctor told him to start jogging to deal with his depression. Soon, he began hearing voices. Eventually, he recovered enough to get a job as a seaman, but trouble started again when he was in Hawaii and accosted a woman he thought was pushing him. He served time in jail and a judge ordered him into a half-way-house, where he took medication and seemed to improve.

But after returning to California, he deteriorated again and was soon out on the streets. Greggans said she has felt frustration over the years at her inability to force her son into treatment.

Under her tenure as president, NAMI worked with San Mateo County to launch a Web site last month that offers information, in many languages, on County services, insurance, legal issues, support groups and research. Families or individuals can set up personal folders to store records online.

Greggans said that because young people are online, she hopes they will turn to this resource.

She said she wants to save others from going through the suffering her son has endured.

"I never thought I'd live to see this day," she said. "For the first time in 18 years, my son admitted he has a disability."

 

No Picnic In Sight
by Eric Shapiro

Upon being diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I saw the reality behind the greatest myth of mental illness, the myth that The Victim Is Unaware of His or Her Own Condition. A childhood flooded with media depictions of the mentally ill had lead me to believe that the afflicted had somehow been robbed of their objectivity, thrown into a dark hall-of-mirrors beyond the realm of rational perspective.

Nonsense. My rational mind remained intact, albeit uncomfortably so. From the lighter corner of my mind, I watched darkness flow in. Obsessive images of violence and amorality. Urges, or rather, "pseudo-urges" to do things I didn't want to. Yin (the rational mind) duking it out with yang (the imbalanced, irrational mind) on a daily basis. The word "Hell" was used often when describing this state.

I'm certain that the suffering of many leads to punctured objectivity and the loss of rational self-awareness. Fortunately, I remained aware. No matter how awful I felt, I could at least articulate what was going on. The power of descriptive articulation should not be underestimated. It keeps the disorder in context as a disorder, preserving a firm boundary between the right mind and the ill mind. For me, imagining such a boundary was a vital survival tool. I focused on finding a day when Yin overran Yang, so to speak.

The afflicted mind has difficulty inspiring itself to seek assistance. What a complex entity the mind is; even in sickness, it has only itself to rely upon. Unlike somebody with a broken leg, a person with an anxiety disorder cannot lean on his or her other mind. Overcoming mental duress is like trying to kiss your own lips. Quite tricky, but possible with enough imagination.

Imagination and resourcefulness, that's what it comes down to. These strange ailments go just as they came. I knew that elements of my mind were strong; the challenge was getting these elements to positively influence the weaker ones. This required many analysts, many appointments, many schools of healing. Psychology, psychiatry, homeopathy, reflexology, reiki, energy healing-- these were all thrown in the pot to little avail. Finally and unexpectedly, acupuncture provided balance. I've improved significantly. I thank acupuncture and I thank my supportive family, but, most importantly, I thank counter-mythology even when afflicted, the human mind sees itself. And in itself, it sees solutions.

(Eric Shapiro is the author of "Short of a Picnic," a collection of stories about mental illness due in September from Be-Mused Publications-- go to Be-mused.com or Barnesandnoble.com & Amazon.com for details)

Contact Info
1345 N. Orange Dr., #1
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shortofapicnic@aol.com

 

Avoid Being A Scapegoat

Hello Wonderful People,

This letter goes out to ANYONE who has a mental health disorder, whether it is bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, ptsd, panic disorder, agoraphobia, schizophrenia, etc.

You know, there is a lot of discussion about the families of people who have mental disorders; we now know them as brain disorders which is more accurate. I have a great deal of respect for these families because let's face it, it isn't easy to live with many of the symptoms of our disorders and for most of us it seems, we live with more than one disorder.

These kinds of disorders as I always say, don't like to come alone and love to bring company whether it be panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder, you name it. I have discussed the "affective spectrum" many times.

So I encourage families to reach out for support but as I have mentioned before, be careful where you find that help. There is much hate in many family groups and that is an ok place to begin but the goal should be to move past that and not remain in that place. Look for swastikas hanging. LOL

However! I am more of an advocate for the person with mental health disorders because I understand this world better on a personal and professional level. My letter today is a caution against something I see a lot.

Because many of the symptoms of our disorders are so visible, so easy to see by our families – so obvious, our problems are so much the focus of our relationships.

For me it wasn't easy to not see the bookshelf coming down, or me clearing my desk and the last and worse one, breaking apart two wooden tv trays.

The family member can say "See! Look! This is the reason for all my problems. I have no problems of my own because they aren't so visible and you can't see them so easy as the person who has the disorder."

Does this mean the person without the obvious disorders don't have deep issues? Does this mean that the family member doesn't ever trigger the person with the mental health issues? Does this get brought up in therapy?

It is so common when relationships come to an end for the family member who does not have an obvious mental health disorder to say to everyone "I left the marriage because my wife/husband acted out too many times." Or "I left the marriage because I could not stand their disorder another second."

When you hear messages like this, WATCH OUT! Never is there one simple pat answer to a break up of a relationship UNLESS the person does not want to face their inner responsibility for their part and that part has NOTHING to do with the other person's disorder. Yes, you heard me right!

Because our disorders are so visible, I'll say this again, we are and can be excellent scapegoats for people who do not want to face up to their responsibilities. It is so much easier to blame a very easy scapegoat and many do and the sad part is that the person with the disorder buys into it and takes all the blame.

Not one person is all guilty for a break-up for a relationship.

If both people have mental health issues, one party can still blame the other person just the same. Some mental health disorders express themselves "quieter " but can be even more deadly to a relationship than someone acting out physically. We call that emotional abuse, emotional violence, being unavailable to their partner such as depression, ptsd, etc.

Have you ever went out on a first date and asked that person why their marriage didn't work, which in my opinion is not an appropriate question for the first date? Have you noticed it is a very simple answer and it isn't multi-faceted and it is the other person's fault? You are hearing a very twisted story.

Remember for those of you that have mental health disorders who are in relationships, don't buy into the theory that you are lucky to have this person and that not many people would have you. You are very loveable and many people would love you. Never take second seat.

Remember if your partner has no mental health disorders that he/she still has issues of their own. Everyone does. Never let them blame you for things that do not belong to you.

Now if you are out of a relationship and your ex has created a false story, what do you care? Be glad that this person is gone. Obviously they have a problem with compulsive lying and you want none of that.

Never ever allow your mental health disorder(s) to make you feel bad or less about yourself. Mental health disorders are brain disorders. You wouldn't feel bad if you had diabetes would you? Same type of thing.

You are not your disorder. You are still you, just working hard to feeling better and you have lots of company.

Never ever let anyone make you feel less than who you are because of your disorder(s) whether it be your work, your friends, etc. In today's society people are extremely uneducated about mental health so you are likely to hear incredible things that are far from the truth and expected to just "snap out of it."

If you would like to share your stories with us, we'll publish them here.  We ALL matter, no matter who we are, whether we are healthy or working on getting there.  Share your story, your words could be exactly the enouragement someone else will need to begin their own healing process.  Please send your story to Magicalchoices1@aol.com  with the words MY STORY in the subject line.

Magical Choices * Greensboro, NC 27455