In May of 2008 I had a sudden, acute psychotic break. Very few people know their own risk of psychosis, and that it can happen at any age, regardless of prior history. Given my circumstances (age, gender, no prior family history, no notable prior mental illness, etc.) this constitutes something like a .04% statistical probability (4 in 10,000).
At the peak of my career and the onset of the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, I quit my job believing my co-workers were set to distribute videotape of me being sexually assaulted. Driven by delusions and hallucinations, I bolted from my comfortable surroundings in fear and hit the road in an attempt to reach my dad’s home in Ohio. I drove 17,000 miles before I found my way back home to Colorado. I was reported missing by my family.
With no intervention from family or friends regarding my strange behavior and completely debilitated by my own condition, I spent the next two years suffering in ways I never knew imaginable before I was able to seek help and begin the long road to recovery.
This blog encapsulates my journey from May of that fateful year to present day. Many of the early posts are pictures for I lost my ability to write and could only communicate in an abstract visual sense what was going on internally.
Well, this summer is blowing by. With all the social activities I’ve been involved in, you would think nothing at all is wrong with me. I’ve been feeling well, clear headed, and energetic. This is indeed a bonus not only for my personal life, but my work life as well. The solution, for me it seems, has been reducing my meds to 15 mg of Abilify – down from the prescribed 30 mg. I feel like I am playing with fire, however. The dose is not enough to suppress the audibles, but enough to keep me cognitively clear enough to focus at work and then come home and have energy for the basic tasks of life.
30 mg, even 20 mg, drags on me so that I sleep when I get home from work and I don’t have the energy for anything more. Nothing gets done. Bills go unpaid, dishes pile up, clothing is strewn about. Now, on 15mg none off this is true. My little pad is tidy, maybe not spotless, but at least I have the wherewithal to start projects and slowly finish them over the course of a few weeks.
My neuro-behavioralist told me that anti-psychotics are powerful sedatives. I don’t think most people realize this. I know I didn’t, but boy do they pack a whollup. I don’t mind hearing things at all, so long as I am not delusional. Finding that balance between clarity and symptoms has not been an easy solution to happen upon. I admit I’ve played doctor with my meds – sometimes going off, sometimes running out – in an effort to find this optimum spot that reminds me how I used to feel, how I used to perform before adult-onset schizophrenia.
Sometimes it feels like I am chasing ghosts, and ironically, other times it seems like I am amidst ghosts, listening in on ethereal conversations. I am happy, though, all in all, and I am quite content with how I am feeling. Now if I could just get my closets organized.
Yesterday my nieces asked me about when I was sick. They had moved back into town just after I became floridly psychotic. My niece said, “You weren’t the Deas we knew in Dallas.”
It’s really hard to describe to people how psychosis can be so devastating. Descriptions of strange thoughts or beliefs and hallucinations don’t really delve into the emotional fear and confusion. Similarly, describing something to older teens who don’t have the benefit of many years of lived experience makes it even more difficult.
One of the things I told them was to call an ambulance next time I start acting strange, which launched a conversation about how they felt I had “wanted” to be in that crazy state in which they found me. Horrified, I quickly corrected them and, as best I could, tried to describe how when I was psychotic I didn’t know I was sick. Agnosia often plays a role in schizophrenia. Nobody chooses to suffer like that. Intervention is what I want.
Forced medications and forced hospitalization is a big topic for people with psychotic disorders. Many families and loved ones struggle with the issue as they watch their friend, brother or sister, child or parent spiral into madness. While there is not a single clear-cut answer, I do think achieving a functional stability should be the end-goal for anyone with psychotic illnesses, especially when we can’t make good choices for ourselves.
My meds finally arrived from India. They are in such tiny packages I hardly recognize them as medicine. You would think in America that people pull their sample medications from their purse and dance through the streets advertising them–the boxes and labels are so large and you only have five pills per box. India, on the other hand, packs 50 in a box not much larger than a box of matches. The price, too. What a difference. My medications from India cost $87 for 100 pills, whereas here in America I would pay $900 for 30 pills (that’s $3000 for 100 pills). I wouldn’t believe this myself if I hadn’t priced it out personally at my own pharmacy. The difference here is that they are allowed to sell the generic overseas while in the US patent rights are still in force and only the brand name is sold, which my insurance doesn’t cover.
With meds comes the lingering question: do I really want or need to take these? I don’t like medications very much, though I do Continue reading “Mail-order Sanity”
I am moving soon, finally away from my family. In a mad stroke of luck the apartment just next door to my old apartment was available. I’ll get the same great view in a quiet corner on the grounds of a vintage complex. Though much has happened in the nearly past four years since I left the apartment when I became ill, I’ll be happy to return and begin to rebuild some of what was lost. Unfortunately, Zoey and Fatty wont be with me and I will certainly feel their absence as an unfulfillable void. Some things can never be recovered.
Despite the heartbreaking tragedies I’ve endured through the past four years, I am hopeful I can find peace and stability as well as further my healing.
As I was driving to an interview yesterday, I saw Zoey. I am certain it was her. I was too stunned by disbelief to stop. She looked good, healthy and cared for. When I lost it and lost her I kept thinking this is the Reality Show as a maroon car followed me.
Is it possible I will find her? She had her tags and was registered. I can only hope that somewhow I will be reunited with Zoey.