So I just finished my book forward. A bit long, but thought I’d share it here.
I was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was seventeen. The psychiatrist told my parents I wouldn’t make it in college and to keep me at home. They were in the middle of an ugly divorce when college time came, and I took off from California to attend Brigham Young University in Utah anyway. I left my medication at home, and did pretty well the first three years.
My junior year, when I was twenty one, I went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. While living on an Indian Reservation, some Indian children created a ritual to adopt me into their tribe. Their ceremony included a mysterious tea. Soon after the ceremony, I ended up in a mental hospital. I later attempted to retrieve my records from this hospital, but was informed that the hospital had burned down. I do not know what diagnosis I received there.
In my early thirties, after the birth of my second child, I suffered from severe post partum depression. After seeing a psychiatrist, I was put on antidepressants. These medications sent me into a manic episode, which required a second hospitalization, and follow up medication for a while after that.
I had been fairly stable for ten years with little need for medication, when in my early 40’s I started having several health issues related to peri-menopause and hormonal problems (migraines, extremely heavy periods, hair loss, fatigue.) I was put on a hormonal regime, which included estrogen and testosterone. These appeared to be causing manic symptoms and I was hospitalized a third time.
While in the hospital, my husband told my boss at work that I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. With the hospitalization, the sharing of my diagnosis, the hormonal issues I was struggling with and the exhaustion from the mania, I was falling into a deep depression. This book was written during that time. I was desperately grasping for any spiritual beliefs I hoped were true, any psychological interventions I’d come across in my career as a therapist, and any metaphors or reframes I could use to make me feel better. And what I came up with…actually helped me.
Throughout my life I have been on and off medication. I work with a psychiatrist to keep me feeling well, but do not need to be on medications on a daily basis. I collaborate with my family, my psychiatrist, holistic practitioners and my many inner selves to function at the highest level that I can. My needs change from time to time…when I travel, when I am under certain amounts of stress…or sometimes just because.
I have learned to be grateful for this problem of mine. It is a double-edged sword. Having struggled with mental health issues throughout my life makes me a talented and empathetic therapist. It is a weakness, that, through the help of others, I have learned to turn into a strength.
I left this book alone for a year after it was written, and when I went to pick it up again I was in a different space. I cringed at some of the writing, and wanted to change it to make it much more “professional”. Ultimately, however, with the encouragement of my husband, I decided to leave it as is. It feels more truthful that way.
I feel my purpose here on earth is to help people learn that you can have a mental illness, and still be emotionally well and live a profoundly happy life. It’s not easy. Life can be hard. It is full of bittersweetness. But bittersweet is the best kind of chocolate. I hope you can enjoy my story and glean a little something from what I have learned, regardless of your mental or emotional state.
I’d like to thank my family…my brothers, my husband, and my children. For inspiring me to stay healthy, and for pointing out when I am on roads that are not leading me in that direction. I am blessed with the best of family and friends. I want to thank the therapist I saw when I first got hospitalized over 20 years ago, Dr. Lynn Nodland, who saw me simply as a person, not as a seriously mentally ill person. I’d like to thank all the other great treatment providers I’ve worked with ever since, both as a consumer of mental health services, and as a provider of them. I’d also like to thank all my spiritual guides, Gods and Goddesses who broke me out of the Tower and brought me back to the kingdom.
This book is dedicated to my Mom, one of the damnedest dames I know.
Lots of love,