Monday, April 7, 2014

Climbing Up From Rock Bottom: I Have Schizoaffective Disorder

by ClosertoFine

Experience Project~ I began having mental health issues (mainly depression and an eating disorder) when I was fourteen but I was not diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder until I was 19.  It was at 19 that I began to experience severe paranoia.  Shortly after that the voices began.  I tried to ignore them.  I tried to go on with my life but I was overwhelmed.  I ended up overdosing on my antidepressant at age 20.  For me that was rock bottom.  

When I woke up in the emergency room with tubes and monitors everywhere I was not happy to have lived through the overdose.  I was angry.  I spent a few days on the cardiac floor then was admitted to a short term psychiatric unit with a 24 hour "velcro" sitter (aka someone who's job it was to watch me 24/7).  I had the sitter because I still wanted to die and was attempting to hurt myself even while on the locked psych unit.  After 72 hours on the psych unit I tried to demand to be released.  The psychiatrist took me to court and had me declared incompetent and I was placed on probate status and remanded to the hospital.  So I ended up spending about 2 months on the unit that normally does not hold anyone for more than 7 days.  For quite a while of that I was absolutely out of control.  I wanted to hurt myself so badly that I spent quite a bit of time in isolation, under sedation, or in restraints.  
Eventually the psychiatrist sat me down and basically told me that the direction I was going was right to long term placement in a state run facility.  I just remember that hit me really hard because I had gone from being a really high achiever who was "destined for great things" to being considered for the state hospital.  I knew in my heart that I could put the pieces back together and I think he knew that too.  I just had to work with my illness and with the treatment team instead of fighting everything.  I sat there that morning and wrote a mission statement for my life (I'll have to find that and post it here sometime).  And then began the babysteps back to the real world.  It wasnt an immediate miraculous turn around.  It was a gradual improvement.  It was me fighting myself and fighting my demons.  
Eventually I improved enough to get rid of my sitter.  That was a big deal for me.  Then after having been there more than 2 months I improved enough that the court allowed me to be transferred to a private longer term type of hospital that was out of state.  When I was discharged from the short term unit I cried.  Those people had saved my life and I knew it.  My dad accompanied me when I flew to the hospital that was out of state.  The particular part of the facility that I was accepted into was a Women's Treatment Program.  It was a house on the grounds of a very well known hospital.  The house was open and as long as we attended treatment sessions we could come and go as we pleased.  I was supposed to be there 6 weeks.  I ended up only staying 11 days but during those days I was able to get used to not being locked up again.  I spent a large amount of the time riding the public transit system into the city and just kind of walking around and being a young woman out in the city again.  After 11 days I decided that I was not benefiting from the program and that my being there was not necessary.  I called my parents and the airline and a cab and flew home.  
The court then put me on community probate where they required that I report to a local mental health clinic a certain number of times per week.  At the same time I was trying to decide what to do with my life.  I put in an application to college.  As months went by things got better.  Eventually I was released from probate and was then considered a voluntary patient again. 
Much to my surprise the college that I had applied to accepted me.  Against my treatment team's advice I decided to begin school on a full time basis and move into the dorms.  It turned out to be an excellent choice for me.  I ended up changing my whole treatment team upon moving to school and that has worked out well.  I'm going into my third year of undergrad as a psychology major.  I have been dean's list every semester.  My meds are not completely stable (I've been through 25+ meds in countless combinations) but I have learned to function even when things are "off". 

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