Sitting out on my porch and playing around with my computer on the first non 100° days we’ve had in Phoenix, Arizona in a bit it occurred to me that I’ve never discussed on my blog why or even how I sought help for my mental illnesses. I think I’ll take a little time today to share my story with you even though it is a bit personal.
For a good portion of my life, I always thought there was something wrong with me but I could never figure out exactly it was. No matter how exciting or happy the situation happened to be most of the time I couldn’t even manage to even fake a smile. I was exhausted and so many negative thoughts ran through my head I pretty much didn’t care about anything or anyone. My childhood was pretty sad and lonely because even though I did hang out with people I really never considered any of them a true friend as I was unable to ever show them my true self.
Looking back I realize I didn’t care much for attention so when I did get it I would use self-deprecating humor and pretty much any weird thing I could think of at the time to try to push people away. I wanted to be a loner left alone in my own little world.
Around my 18th birthday, something glorious happened. For the first time, I felt happy! I actually desired to be around people and even got a bit reckless. This lasted for about five days and looking back I realize I didn’t even get any sleep during that time which should’ve been a gigantic red flag. After I finally went to sleep the depression returned and over the years those glorious days seem to only return during times of extreme stress.
Flash forward to my 22nd birthday. (By the way as a side note I wanted you to know that I hate birthdays and mine is coming up on the 25th of this month.) I had some pretty stressful events that I don’t want to get into right now occur and long story short I don’t remember much but at some point, I tried to build a device to contact aliens and also wrote an incoherent journal documenting the entire progress of my venture. Most people probably would get help after something this bizarre but hey I’m different I guess.
In 2001 my wife Keisa and I got together and eventually, I found out I was going to be a father. This frightened me yet I did have a feeling that was somewhat foreign to me. The thought of being a dad was one of the first times I can honestly say I was happy without my bipolar mania or medication. In 2003 my wife and I had our second child and once again I was happy.
Flash forward to 2005. Everything seemed pretty hopeless because at this point my illness had me bouncing from job to job every few weeks and we pretty much depended on food stamps to stay alive. We were expecting our third child but this time it wasn’t enough to snap me out of my depression. In fact, because of our financial situation and the crappy place we were living it actually made me even more depressed.
I was so depressed that one day I attempted to hang myself in my bedroom only to be caught by my wife. This was the fifth time I’ve attempted to kill myself and obviously, I failed. As it was the first time I had attempted suicide since I got married it really scared my pregnant wife so bad she called the police. The police came out and at first, they treated me like a criminal with their guns drawn and everything. They were going to handcuff me before a sergeant stepped in and said to leave me alone because it was obvious I had a mental health crisis. I spoke with the police and a crisis team that they sent out as well and eventually, they were able to talk away my desire to die.
The crisis team helped me set up an appointment for a mental health evaluation and possibly medication. They sent me to a place on skid row called Valle del Sol. It was pretty scary because there were so many weird people there as it was mainly a methadone clinic.
I got to see the doctor and he talked to me for about five minutes before he diagnosed me with depression and prescribed me Zoloft before sending me on my way. I also set up counseling with them but stopped after two sessions because it made me feel worse. I took the Zoloft for about three months and discontinued it because all it seemed to do was increase my suicidal thoughts.
My dad gave me a car and having transportation actually cheered me up a bit. I got a job at a local newspaper called the Phoenix New Times and for awhile it felt like a dream job. I was making a ton of money doing something I actually enjoyed. Then the depression hit hard.
I went into solitude and became a stay-at-home dad while my wife worked preparing food at St. Joseph’s Hospital. It was pretty fun being a stay-at-home dad and I even was able to make some extra money doing some affiliate marketing on my home computer when I felt up to it. Eventually, I decided I needed help because I had developed a plan in my head to end it all.
I called the number on the back of my Medicaid card and they sent me to a place down the road named Southwest Behavioral. This place was a lot nicer than the first one since it was located in a business Plaza.
I saw the med doctor and this time they spent about 10 minutes with me before diagnosing me with depression, PTSD, and generalized anxiety. I was given Wellbutrin and Lorazepam (could take up to 5mg a day) to help with my issues. They also required that I go to therapy to get medication.
In my opinion, my therapist here was a complete idiot. He would forget my appointments, reschedule at the last moment, and even get me confused with other patients. We never really talked about my issues he mostly just wanted to know about interesting things from one of my past jobs. This went on for a few years with the occasional admission to UPC (an urgent care for mental health) because I had some extremely weird thoughts about hurting people and I mentioned it to my provider.
Eventually, I got sick of this location because nothing was working and the only thing they were doing was trying to sedate me enough that instead of fixing my issues I would just sleep all day.
I knew I needed to switch providers and this time I did my homework on providers or at least I thought I did. The location I selected was a place called Terros. It got really good reviews online which later I learned were the ones you pay people in Third World countries deposed but that’s another story.
Anyway, this time I was seen by an actual psychiatrist and not a physician assistant. They talk to me for about an hour and a half asking me tons of questions. They determined that even though I had a lot of symptoms that present themselves as being just depression I was actually bipolar II with PTSD, generalized and social anxiety and a minor case of OCD. They prescribed me Cymbalta, Lamictal, Buspar, and Geodon.
Unfortunately, they required group therapy if you wanted to receive medication. I knew I needed medication so I sucked it up and went and it was horrible! Not only did I have my anxiety issues it was ridiculous because the person running the group wouldn’t even address us and read from a book to us. To make matters worse a lot of the people there were only there because of a court order so there were regularly actual fights and police visits where someone ended up arrested.
I felt a lot better on the medication but not anywhere close to where I wanted to be. However, because it cleared up my suicidal thoughts and psychotic episodes I continued to go just because I wanted to be a good father and husband. Eventually, we lost her State-provided healthcare because my wife made too much money for us to qualify yet we couldn’t afford the health insurance offered through her work. So I was off medication once again.
I managed to put all this at bay as long as I stuck to a specific schedule, stayed inside my home and didn’t have any visitors our phone calls. Eventually, I started doing so well that I actually got a job which I still have working from home on social media. It felt great to have a job and contribute to my family again. My wife, however, wasn’t doing very well at her job. There was lots of drama going on and eventually, she decided to quit because she couldn’t deal with it. She got a job at the same company I work for and it was a lot better at home having her there all day.
Our income did drop and luckily enough we were about $75 under the max amount you can make to qualify for Medicaid. This was around the time my mom passed away and the day I got my new Medicaid card I called the number on the back and found a new place to get some help for my mental health issues.
This place is called Bayless Healthcare. It is by far the best provider I’ve seen thus far. My med provider actually seems to care about me and we have been actively trying to find the correct mixture to help with my issues. Unlike other providers, this one was actually willing to swap out medication and try to figure out a way not to make me feel like I was a zombie.
I did try therapy here and once again didn’t really like it. My therapist just seemed like she would be better working with children than adults. Nothing against her and in fact, she is the therapist my daughter. I just think she wasn’t a very good fit for me.
I also tried group therapy which surprisingly went very well. They practiced mindfulness and I found it helped a lot with my anxiety. It helped so much I became obsessed with it trying to learn everything I could about it. It was a 16-week course but I only made it to week 14 because my depression hit and living in the moment like mindfulness teaches you is pretty hard when you’re depressed.
I’m still going to Bayless Healthcare and I’m taking my medication but I’ve discontinued my therapy. I find social media to be a better outlet for me when I need someone to talk to than actually having to take time off of work and drive to a therapist.
My last visit we did change my medication and I did notice that it is making me a lot sleepier and affecting my motor skills so I’m going to make my wife get a drivers license.
I feel a lot better and somewhat normal with this mixture so I think it might be the right one for me. My anxiety should be a lot better too because my med provider has started allowing patients to have appointments via the Internet. I have my first one of those scheduled in a couple weeks so I’m pretty excited.
Anyways, that’s my story and even though I know it’s not eloquently written and might be somewhat incoherent I hope it helps someone who needs it decide to get help or at least realize that they are not alone in their battle with mental health.