They say that admitting you have a problem is half the battle. Whoever coined that saying obviously did not have mental illness in mind.
Far too often, it feels like the real battle isn’t in seeking care but in trying to find the help that actually makes you better.
Too many Bipolar and other mental illness patients stop trying to improve because of the struggle to find that right combination of medications that make life livable without unbearable side effects. They search repeatedly for a doctor who is interested in their wellbeing rather than just someone to throw prescriptions at them.
This post shares the first part of my journey to recovery. As you will see, it got off to a bit of a rocky start.
A Bit About Me
My name is Scott, and I’m the voice behind Speaking Bipolar. After losing far too many people to suicide, I decided it was time to speak up about my own mental illness. In addition, I also live with an auto-inflammatory disease called Familial Mediterranean Fever.
The hope in starting this blog and sharing my story is that it may provide hope, comfort, and validation for someone else. Bipolar Disorder can be survived.
Please note, I am not a mental health professional. Speaking Bipolar is a collection of my experiences of living with illness. If you or a loved one are experiencing mental illness symptoms, please seek the appropriate help immediately.
Becoming Part of the Prozac Nation
Even so, it was sometime later before I actually took the step of talking to my medical doctor about the issues I was experiencing.
Not all doctors are created equal, and, in my opinion, it should be against the law for a doctor without mental health training to prescribe medications for mental illness.
I want to believe that my doctor had my best interests at heart, but knowing how well I’ve gotten to know her in the years since, I am now convinced that she was only concerned with taking my money. The only concern she had toward me was in getting me out of her office.
Dr. Despicable, as we shall call her, listened briefly as I started to tell her what was going on with me and my head. A few seconds in she interrupted me, told me she was very busy but that I was depressed. She wrote me a prescription for Prozac and sent me on my way.
At the time, I didn’t know enough to be offended or concerned. I was 23 and didn’t have a lot of experience with doctors in general, and none with one that was supposed to help with mental disorders. I didn’t know what a true mental health evaluation was supposed to be, so I trusted the “professional,” which is something she definitely was not.
Sunshine and Rainbows
It was the mid-1990’s, and everyone seemed to be on Prozac. For a brief time, there seemed to be a little less of a stigma about mental illness, or rather, maybe just in my little corner of the world.
Prozac was wonderful. It took a few weeks for me to really feel its effect, but after some time and a couple of increases in dosage, I was feeling great.
Prozac was a miracle drug, and I wasn’t afraid to tell people that. Well, some people. For the most part, I still hid my mental illness for fear of being judged as weak or unmanly or as a person without faith. But for the few people I felt I could trust, I sang Prozac’s praises every time I opened my mouth.
It was a new world, and every day seemed just a little bit brighter. Colors were just a hint sharper, and it felt like nothing could have been better.
Here’s a poem about battling mental illness.
Mental Illness Reality Was Knocking
Looking back, I know now that things weren’t as wonderful as they seemed. Instead, it turns out, Prozac is a drug I should never have been prescribed. The modern trend of genetic testing has proven that to be startling true with proof that my body can’t properly metabolize the drug.
Note: I’m not saying that Prozac is bad medicine. In fact, it has successfully improved the lives of many people. It was just the wrong medicine for me.
The euphoria I was experiencing was actually a perpetually manic state. Each dosage increase fanned the flames of the mania. While being manic can be a lot of fun on the front end, it always comes with a hefty price. At times, that price can be deadly.
As time went on, I slept even less than normal. Some of my friends marveled at the fact that I never seemed to get tired. Inside, I worried a little about my lack of sleep, but I convinced myself that not everyone needed eight hours of sleep a night. I was “lucky” enough to be one of those people.
Soon I would learn that luck had nothing to do with it.
One Voice of Reason
During all of this, one of the voices in my head had a whisper of reason. I expressed some concern to Dr. Despicable, and her response was to prescribe me tranquilizers so that something would bring me down at night when it was time to sleep.
The new medication didn’t do anything to improve things. Instead, it only made the situation worse. Much worse.
No rainbow lasts forever, and the darkness that followed was one of the worst that I’ve ever experienced. I’ll share some of that darkness and what it led to in my next post.
Read next: The Night I Almost Lost My Battle (Part 7)