My mental illness started with depression when I was 13, leading to my first suicide attempt at 15, an addiction to self-injury, and anorexia nervosa throughout my teenage years.
At the age of 23, I developed what was later recognized as psychosis. I saw giant bugs, and bats flying around my bedroom, which clearly did not exist. I heard voices, and experienced a type of auditory hallucination I refer to as, “double speak”, where I hear people who are really talking to me saying two or three things at the same time. Delusions terrorized me constantly. I lived in this state of florid psychosis for seven years.
During that time, I was unable to work. If I did have a job, it would only last a few weeks. I was barely able to keep a roof over my head, and lived in three homeless shelters in three states, as well as in motels, rented rooms and, at one point, the back of a car.
I read conspiracy theories on the internet and they reinforced my delusions. I believed thoroughly that a second Holocaust was happening in the United States, and that I was going to be sent to a concentration camp to suffer through torture until death along with millions of others. I thought that I was Anne Frank reincarnated, and I even kept journals of my experiences during what I believed was the end of the world. I also thought I was Jesus, at times, as well as a CIA agent much of the time.
Often the voices would tell me to kill myself, and the voices would come from everywhere: children playing in a schoolyard near where I lived, the TV, the radio; everyone I spoke to. I heard many command hallucinations, telling me to do things, and these dictated my actions. I attempted suicide by overdosing two more times during these years, and then I attempted to drive my mother’s car over the top of a 150 foot high bridge, in an effort to stop the voices once and for all and end the nightmare. Luckily, I survived without serious injury. Unfortunately, I was sent home from the hospital the same day because I lied and said that it had not been a suicide attempt since I wanted to avoid being hospitalized again. I was terrified of psychiatric hospitals and believed I would be raped and tortured there because I was so lost in a delusional world of terror.
This time, I was hospitalized long enough for the medications to work. I was put on antipsychotics and antidepressants, and the delusions began to melt away.
Finally, after multiple hospital stays where I was released without knowing my diagnosis, or having any understanding that I was seriously mentally ill, I had an event in my life that led to me getting real help. In a plan to ultimately end my life, I purchased a gun. I waited through the three day waiting period before I could pick it up from the store, and then I got it, and bought the bullets. I took it to a shooting range and had people teach me how to use it. The voices and messages I saw in signs, books, TV, internet and everything around me all told me it was my destiny to die like Jesus. I believed I had no choice. On the night when I held the loaded gun in my mouth, I decided for some reason, not to pull the trigger until the next day. Crouched down on a bathroom floor, with a bottle of vodka, and a Bible, even though I didn’t drink or practice religion, I put the gun down. The next day a friend from the internet said something to a family member leading them to know I had bought a gun. The police were called and I was taken to the hospital again, and kept there, under Florida’s Baker Act, for six months. My life was saved. This time, I was hospitalized long enough for the medications to work. I was put on antipsychotics and antidepressants, and the delusions began to melt away.
As I began the journey of recovery, I lived in a group home for ten months and then moved into an apartment owned by a mental health housing agency. I got a job part-time, and kept it for a couple of years, before I had a set back and had to leave that job and look for another. I returned to college in 2007, and earned my associate in arts degree, graduating with honors in 2010. Then, I transferred to a local state university which I now currently attend. I am working on my bachelor’s in political science and social work, and working part time in a job I have had for four years.
Recovery is possible. It’s important to remember that you have to hold onto hope.
NAMI has been instrumental in my recovery. I attended NAMI Connection support groups for consumers for a while, and made some friends, who I still know today. I then got involved with being a Crisis Intervention Team Training speaker, and twice a year I attend Pinellas County Florida’s C.I.T. trainings for law enforcement officers, where I tell them my story. I have also told my story to high school students, conferences and community groups. A few years ago, I took the NAMI Peer-to-Peer course, and today I am a trained Peer-to-Peer mentor. I was secretary of the local consumer council for years and am now on the NAMI Pinellas Board of Directors.
I also write a blog where I discuss my illness, my recovery and all the steps along the way. I talk about my struggles there and share my triumphs. It is located at www.suicidalnomore.com and is called Suicidal No More: Choosing to Live with Schizoaffective Disorder. I co-wrote a graphic novel about an episode of psychosis, which is going to be published, and I plan to write an autobiography about life with my illness at some point in the future to inform and inspire others. Recovery is possible. It’s important to remember that you have to hold onto hope.