I got a personal story, from someone who will remain anonymous, about their experience with mental illness. I love it because they don’t hold back with their experiences and I can relate to a lot of it. A lot of times we think that we are by ourselves when it comes to mental illness and situations that arise from them, but we aren’t. This story proves it..
Thanks to this person for sharing and please share your experiences with us too @ firstname.lastname@example.org
I was violently sexually assaulted at the end of my freshman year in college. It was a turning point in my life that led to years of running away from reality and self-medicating with heavy drug and alcohol abuse and sex wherever I could find it. I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder without ever knowing what that was. I was a musician and let my music be my excuse for moving around the country and not staying settled in any one place for long. For five years I was on a manic high long before I had ever heard the word manic. On my 23rd birthday I got scared after I injected cocaine and had the most incredible high of my life. I had a lucid thought that if I ever did that again I would never stop. I haven’t had any illicit drugs since that night in 1985. But I was far from out of the woods with my lifestyle. Although I stopped drugs I didn’t stop drinking and I was still hungry for sex and addicted to pornography.
Although I had grown up in a conservative Christian home, and used that faith to pull me away from drugs, I hadn’t really bought into religion and grew up just faking it as my parents dragged me to church every week. Then in August 1985 I ran into an old friend from church that I hadn’t seen in years. He invited me back to church to see a new pastor who was far different that what I had experienced before. I was intrigued and decided to go. I met my wife that day. I knew it the day we met after we went to lunch with a group of people. I even told my mom that afternoon that I had met the girl I was going to marry. My future wife didn’t see it the same way, however she did agree to go out on a date with me.
We began having sex a few weeks into the relationship. I was 23 and she was 18. After six months she was pregnant and we got married. All the time we were dating I was faithful to her even though I was tempted to mess around on her. After we were married and had our first child I began to get restless. I had my first affair a year later and over the next few years I had several sexual encounters with other women. I was a horrible husband. My wife didn’t discover my double life until we had been married for 13 years. At that time my life fell apart. I thought I was going to lose everything but I didn’t want my marriage to be a failure and I fought to keep us together. I entered into a recovery program for people with sexual addictions and spent the next three and a half years in the program. It saved our marriage as my wife went through a spouses program as well.
It was during that time that I was first diagnosed with depression after a failed suicide attempt. I was prescribed an anti-depressant that kicked mania into high gear. I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder less than a year later after struggling to maintain my sanity and fighting to save my career. The first mood stabilizer I was prescribed was lithium. I can’t remember if it worked for me or not because I was so deep in denial that I took the pills for six months and then quit. But in that time the lithium killed my thyroid. I began to gain weight and feel miserable about myself. When I tried to go back to the doctor they wouldn’t see me because I had missed too many appointments. I looked for a new psychiatrist and he gave me a new prescription for an anti-depressant and mood stabilizer. It didn’t work and I kept having rapid swings in my mood that was threatening what little stability I had in my life. After five different psychiatrists over the next six or seven years I was fed up with the weight gain and thought I was doing better, maybe even cured of my illness. Over Christmas in 2008 I decided that I didn’t need my medication any longer and went off them. Two month later, on the job, I was traveling in Portland, Oregon where I met with two young women in their late 20s. One of them was dying of cervical cancer. I spent about 12 hours with them, listening to their stories and triggering my own depression. I needed someone to talk to about my feelings but I didn’t know where to turn. I cycled rapidly from depression to mania and in a desperate need to talk to someone else, I created a fake Facebook account. I pretended to be a young woman living in Texas, where I had lived during my prodigal days. It began a downward spiral.
Over the next several months I became enthralled with this new life I was building and created a second fake account to be her friend and to help build friendships with others on line. I was addicted to this and it became consuming and very destructive to my real life. The mania I was in was filled with incredibly loud racing thoughts that made it hard to focus on anything except the self-medicating addiction of my fake double life. I was a manic train wreck, living on 2-3 hours of sleep, not communicating with my wife and letting my world collapse around me. I cut my friends out of my life and was generally an ass to everyone around me.
A few months later I was laid off from my job, partly because of the economy but also because I had become dead weight as I lived a double life. Soon the fake profiles weren’t enough and I began reconnecting with friends from high school. One of the women, who lived on the East Coast, sensed my vulnerability and began heavy flirting with me. I welcomed it and made plans to leave my wife and move there to start a new life with her. On a Sunday I told my wife that I wanted a divorce and that I was moving out east. It didn’t go well. In all of the times that I had been unfaithful to her and got caught, and all the times I lied to her and got caught, we had never really fought, until then. I stayed in the house that night and had planned on leaving on Monday. But during the night I had another one of those lucid thoughts like the one that saved me from drugs. I apologized to my wife, told her how messed up I was, and called my psychiatrist with an urgent plea for help. A few hours later I was checked into a behavioral health hospital and for the first time in my life, I began to get the real help that I needed.
I was not out of the woods. I had shaken the core of my family and done immeasurable damage to my relationships with my wife and kids. After I got out of the hospital I was not allowed to come home. My wife packed a bag for me and I went to stay with a friend an hour away. I was unemployed and at the time, unemployable. I was an emotional wreck and my marriage was on the rocks.
After a couple of weeks my wife let me come home but I slept in a spare bedroom and was on a strict curfew and limited computer access. A couple of months later, Thanksgiving was coming and my sons were coming home. I needed to move out of the spare room for them and my wife let me back into our bedroom, so long as I slept on a pallet on the floor. It took months before I earned enough of her trust to sleep in my own bed and the bed stayed cold for a very long time. I was however, done with the Facebook fakes but I was still an emotional basket case. All told I was out of work for 17 months and we were limping by on my wife’s part time income and my unemployment checks. We barely hung onto our home but we made it. Our relationship was getting better and I was able to go back to work in late 2010. The only problem was that the closest job I could find was 750 miles away. I took the job and began an eight-month commute. My wife and I had done a lot to rebuild our relationship and she went out a limb to trust me living on my own so far away. We had been going to church again and I had been taking it much more seriously than ever before. I truly got to the point where I believed in Christ as my savior and worked hard to live a good life.
While I was living away, my wife and I would talk on Skype every day and would end our hour or two conversations with prayer before we went to sleep. I was not doing porn or fake Facebook at all during this time, but some old habits crept back into my life. I was drinking every day and I began smoking again, a habit that I had quit successfully for many years. On the weeks when my wife came to visit or when I came home I was able to avoid drinking and smoking, as I didn’t want her to find out. So the lies were again piling up.
After eight months I was recruited to come back to my hometown to work for one of the largest technology companies in the world. I jumped at the chance and came home. With my willpower I was able to quit smoking, for the most part, and quit drinking, again for the most part. At first I loved my new job but after 18 months the stress was beginning to tear me up. I went into a deep depression that made it hard to function. My doctor, who had taken me off anti-depressants a year earlier, decided to put me on Prozac. I protested to that drug but he insisted and I trusted him. Six weeks later I was suicidal and my attempt on May 23, 2013 failed because the truck I jumped in front of was able to stop in time. My doctor had me committed to the hospital on a 5150, mandatory 72-hour hold. An old psychiatrist of mine was the doctor on call at the hospital and after less than 24 hours I convinced him that I was fine and he released me. I fired my psychiatrist and found another one who got rid of the Prozac and put me on Wellbutrin, which is what I had originally asked for.
I spent the next three months on disability and took the time I needed to recover emotionally and physically. I was in therapy and support groups 3-4 times a week during that three-month period. Even after I went back to work I did therapy twice a week for the next couple of months. After two months back on the job the stress was building again and I couldn’t take it so I quit. My new employer didn’t offer the same health plan and I lost my doctor and therapy groups.
That was 18 months ago. Since then I have been doing mostly very well. I joined the Board of Directors for Mental Health America Central California, a position I since left because of time conflicts. I went back to school to finish the degree I had started 33 years earlier. With the exception of a few lies that my wife has caught me in, I have been doing pretty well. The lies I have told are stupid lies, mostly about whether or not I was looking at porn, which I was but denied. I still struggle with that sometimes, but it is getting better. The racing thoughts are still there, in the back of my mind, but the volume is so low that I don’t always notice them. I can still feel the cycling of my moods, but I am well medicated and the cycles are easily managed with a little conscious effort. I am getting stronger every day.
Through all of this, my wife has been the most patient, forgiving, and loving person that I could ever hope for. She never gave up on me. We both made a promise to remain married and that is one promise that I will never break. Today, life is good. My career is in good shape, my relationships with my kids are better than ever, and I am back in church getting my spiritual life on the right track after living in the wilderness for so very long.