So today, I feel sadness, anger, heartache and relief. But I will not feel fear. I have a healthy fear of fear because of its ability to stifle and constrict me and those around me. I will not fear that illness will rear its ugly head and sideline any of my children as they chase their dreams. I will not fear that acts of terror will strike them down. I will not allow fear to keep me and those I love from living life to the fullest. I will not allow a fear of mental illness, or terrorism, to put arbitrary limits on us. I will not allow fear to win.
Years later, I asked a close colleague what people had thought of my leave and of me as a person. She said everyone respected me and spoke highly of my abilities. While a few people knew the full story, she said they judged me based solely on my professional capabilities.
If only I had asked that question a few years back . . .
Life just changes after you leave the care and attention of a hospital staff, especially in the psych unit where emotions, thoughts, and accommodations to the inner person are the sole focus. Mental health every minute of every day. There’s no transition period. It’s a freaking jump-cut. Here one moment, there the next. No amount of teaching in group could prepare me for the extremes of loneliness that I am presently experiencing.
“My meds are working. Schizophrenia is being untangled from the roots and downy fringe of my neurotransmitters. A new life awaits when I’m back in the world, seventy-two short hours from now. I’m excited. I’m scared. But I’m hopeful. I guess that’s as much as I can ask for, as I bring change 2 my very own mind.”
What I don’t think anyone really understands. My life right now, is at risk every thirty days. I take pills that have literal killer withdrawals. When my pharmacy has a glitch I’m teetering on an emotional wire. Today, for example… Oh, this is just something that happens without explanation or known reason other than the magic words: side effects. My tongue, and my shoulders to chest, and fingertips.. just roll a numbing sensation through me.
The day wore on. I think the label read, “Caution: May Cause Drowsiness.” More like slow-motion ennui wrapped in sofa cushion batting. Sit. Stand. Tuck in the sheet. Fluff the pillow. If I’d had a light switch on my side of the door, I’d’ve been flicking it on and off for something creative to do.
In January 2016 I suffered a bout of psychosis on par with that of my earliest breakdowns. Due to self-stigma I tried to present as “normal”, but this particular experience led to consequences which required emergency services and inpatient care.
This three-part series is meant to illustrate my state of mind at the time. Any misperceptions during my stay were due to the symptoms of my disorder. I mean to cast no aspersions. Each individual responsible for my care did their job to the best of their abilities. I am grateful for their kindness, and have the utmost respect for them and their profession. ~HBJ
When I think of those who battle mental disorders I think of the word ‘fly’. If you watch a bird in the sky they have pure freedom. That freedom is key and is what fly means to me. The ability to have pure freedom to be ourselves in a world that is constantly trying to change us. The ability to not be perfect and express it. That is my goal in sharing my story. I am not afraid to show my flaws or ashamed of my past. I want others to be able to tell their stories without fear or judgment.