Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Story

This evening I tried to post "My Story" on the Bring Change 2 Mind website. I wasn't able to because it wouldn't let me "register" for some reason.

However, I did receive a nice comment from Miriam after posting on their message board there. So, I thought I would post here what I had written. The questions are those asked at Bring Change 2 Mind.


When did you know you had a mental illness?
I never knew that I had a mental "illness". I never saw my issues as an illness, but as a "flaw" within me. I was diagnosed with depression at age 30. For many many years thereafter I continued to work and raise a family, occasionally on medications, occasionally seeing psychiatrists, counselors, etc whenever my "inability to cope" with life became more than I could bare.

Often we are told that depression is temporary and linked to particular circumstances that are happening in your life; so we think that when the circumstances go away, or you are on meds for a while, the "problem" should be gone... And I often thought it was...

Only for episodes of major depression to occur again... Over the years I tried to educate myself and realized that I have had "Generalized Anxiety" and some social phobia all my life... I was afraid to walk to school, for instance, and dreaded it every day, even continuing through my High School years, but never told anyone. I always saw it as being afraid of life, and couldn't understand why I was....

At a particularly trying time in our life, I began to have panic attacks, and (I believe) suffered a "nervous breakdown". As with other times, when things got too bad, I would quit my job for a break and to recoup myself. When I felt well enough to "handle" things again, I would go back to work.

Eventually my once great resume now looked a mess, past employers told of my issues, and the work (and wages) I was able to get degraded.... Finally I asked my MD to put me on Disability and asked that he help me get permanent disability (as I now felt totally incapable of working, but couldn't leave my family without my salary). The MD refused (said he wasn't qualified) and sent me to a psychiatrist for evaluation and help... Actually, HE said he would give me a referral. His staff told me they "had none" for psychiatrists, acted very unhelpful, and left me to fend for myself in finding someone. I had the very strong impression from most everyone I encountered during these circumstances that they felt I was faking this in an attempt to stop working and get disability. Who the hell would want to?!

So I went to the psychiatrist with the determination to try to get Social Security Disability...

I was approved for Social Security Disability when he diagnosed me (for their purposes I guess) with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because of the years of going through this...

How did you feel after you were diagnosed?
Making the decision to go on disability and "label myself" as disabled with a "mental" illness sent me into a deeper tailspin of depression. My self esteem and self worth were shattered - gone. I saw myself and my life as a failure... to me, to my family, to the world at large. I was (and still somewhat am) embarrassed that I have screwed up and wasted my life and my children's. I have now spent 7? years as a recluse and spend my time with any hobby that will keep the critical voices in my head at bay.

How has treatment helped you?
It took a year to get the Social Security. I was on meds and saw the psychiatrist until that time. After that I felt I could no longer afford the cost of the seeing him just to "chat"... I had given up on life, never mind the thought of any "recovery". Eventually I went off the meds also because of the cost, and because just staying at home I had little to stress me. So I haven't done treatment since receiving Social Security.

What is your message of hope for people like you?
I have no message of hope. I'm very glad, however, that people like you do. Your campaign, and the Minds on the Edge campaign have given me the voice to at least tell my story...

However, since my daughter was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, now Schizo-Affective Disorder, ten years ago and her illness is more recognized as a PHYSICAL brain disorder, some of the misunderstanding is a little better in our immediate family. So I guess that is hope... and a little movement forward.

1 comment:

Sandra Cobb said...

Thanks for your story. You are very brave to post it. I, too, was afraid to walk to school, and many times to go to school. I am also over 50 and have PTSD and Social Anxiety Disorder... and of course, they always say I have depression, but, I'm only depressed because of my illness. I WANT to get out and do more!!! I look forward to reading more of your blog.