"Success is not measured by what you accomplish but the opposition you have encountered and the courage
with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds."

Orison Swett Marden

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Zoo That's Out of Control

Oh, and how my Zoo is out of control. Backlash. Ever get that when you didn't even know there was backlash to be gotten? And from people who are supposed to be "family" nonetheless? That's just today's poop in the zoo cages.

So, my blog is all about my zoo of a life. What makes my life a zoo, you ask? What am I going to write about that might interest you? Holding nothin' back here, I'm a "mental patient." Have been for about 30 years. Well, that's how long I've been diagnosed anyway. I've been hospitalized numerous times...and I mean numerous...and have all kinds of stories that I can share. Some funny, some scary, some just weird. Then of course, there is that struggle of changing the poop out of the zoo cages in my day-to-day life.

Basically, the purpose of my blog is to let you into my life. If you currently struggle with a mental illness, you may find company here or with any luck you may find something useful. If you don't have a mental illness, maybe you can gain some understanding. Just to clarify something for you though...just because I have a mental illness, it doesn't mean I'm stupid. I'm sure you've seen that long list of names of famous people, like Albert Einstein, who have dealt with mental illness. I certainly don't claim to be an Albert Einstein, but my IQ isn't just in the double digits. In fact, many people believe that those with mental illness tend to have higher IQs. Now if we could just use that intelligence to make better medications or find a cure, we could all leave our zoos.

First things, first...you need to know what the hell is wrong with me....

If you ask a person with a mental illness, you may find that many of us will tell you that we have felt out-of-place for most of our lives; feeling like we never really fit in anywhere. For me, I describe it as though I fell through the cracks in my early years. There is no one thing that contributes to an illness. There may be the "straw that breaks the camel's back" but there usually isn't one thing that we can pinpoint that caused our problems. There are also two main factors to consider: the presence of situational problems that can be the basis for mental illness and an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain (chemicals that make neurons fire to make our brain "work"). For me, there is nothing specific I can identify that caused problems early on for me...like my poor self-esteem. My behavior didn't really make me stand out either so no one really did anything to intervene.

My behavior took a drastic turn when I hit age 12 however. I began to isolate; coming home from school and retreating to my room, coming out for dinner and phone calls. I didn't have a good relationship with my parents and since I had not developed good mental health skills (I slipped through the cracks, remember?), I didn't know how to identify something was wrong or was I able to start building skills from scratch at that point. So, I slowly continued to get worse. By the time I was 13 1/2, I experienced my first suicidal urges, though I did not act on them.

When I was 14, my world changed. I became involved with an older man and was subsequently mentally, emotionally and sexually abused. Those terms don’t seem to “pack the punch” that they used to because they are used so often. So I’ll put it to you this way: he spent about three months getting his claws into me and then I was repeatedly raped for the next ten months. Unfortunately, because I didn’t know how I was supposed to respond or how to ask for help, it continued. Eventually, however, after five tries, I was able to break loose from him with a little help from my parents. He did some stalker-like stuff for a few months after that but it eventually stopped.

So then, I had to get on with my life. There are a lot of years there so I’ll try to give you the Reader’s Digest version.

Not able to deal with the “leftovers” of abuse, I tucked it away deep inside and started self-medicating with alcohol and I was introduced to a few drugs as well. By the middle of my senior year of high school, I was a mess. Having already spent a lot of time in my counselor’s office over the years, I walked in there one January morning and spilled my guts as much as I could. It wasn’t good. I saw the school psychologist next who gave me a bunch a tests. Then I was off to a social worker who seemed to think I could get better if I just read a book on assertiveness.

The night of senior prom I went with an older friend of mine to a party and got really drunk. His friends liked to play drinking games with me…they got a kick out of getting this “high school girl” drunk! That night, not only did I get drunk, I lost my sense of self and took a half a bottle of Excedrin. Enter first suicidal gesture. That earned me a trip to the psychiatrist who put me on an antidepressant. Two months later, just after my 18th birthday, I used that same antidepressant to overdose. I landed in ICU in a coma with a 50% chance to live.

Boy, this can get depressing, can’t it? I don’t think I’d better throw it all at you at once. :)  But that’s my beginning. Jumping many years forward, today is Sunday and my husband and son are in the basement playing with our new Wii, which we purchased yesterday on a impulsive whim (though we were planning to get one some time anyway). So why am I sitting at the computer when I could be with them, forgetting about my troubles, throwing strikes in bowling or totally missing the ball in baseball? Good question. I think I’ll go cut myself a piece of my diet cake and join them.

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