Recovery Took Me More Than One Try
My name is Jonathan and I am 28 years old with a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. I was born in South Korea to a mother who was labeled “mentally unstable.” I was adopted by my family as a baby and grew up in Virginia and Louisiana. As a child, I was markedly different and as I grew older things got more and more complicated.
I didn’t start the process of seeing doctors and therapists until I was 15 years old and it took an entire decade for me to be properly diagnosed and placed on the right medications. Over the years I had a variety of diagnosis’ to include: ADHD, Asperger’s, Oppositional-Defiance Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar disorder, then finally schizoaffective. I had been placed on almost every different anti-depressant and anti-psychotic available and they were all accompanied by mixed ranges of undesirable side effects.
From the side effects to not believing that something was wrong, led to the vicious cycle of going on and off my medication and turning to illegal drugs to substitute. When I finally did accept that something was wrong, my family still had a hard time accepting that I had a mental illness. The denial amongst my family made me feel isolated and alone and only fueled my ever-growing addiction to drugs. As my drug in-take increased so did my symptoms. However, sometimes the drugs helped alleviate a lot of my symptoms, especially the hallucinations and delusions.
I have had a pretty typical story about mental illness, with multiple visits to jail, hospitals, and rehabs. My story translates to the story of so many others who suffer with mental illness. I don’t ever claim to have suffered any more or any less than the next person. We all have our equal struggles and universal stories of despair and little hope. But where my story begins to change, is unfortunately, where for too many unfortunate others, their story ends.
When I was about to lose it all, I finally got clean from drugs in January 2016. I spent three months in rehab and one month in a Sober Living Facility. I then began to rebuild my life in a small town in Northern Louisiana. But, while I was in the SLF, I was encouraged by the man that ran the place to take myself off all my medication. He believed that spirituality would save me, not my medication. So, I went months without taking any medication. This ultimately led to my rapid fall back into mania and psychosis and in October 2016 I had another full-blown episode of psychosis.
I moved back home with my parents in Northern Virginia. This past year and one month has been the greatest recovery period of my entire life. My doctor tried me on a new medication, along with a combination of other medications that I had always been on, it was an amazing success. Little to no side-effects, except for restless legs and the occasional muscle spasm, and huge results, almost all my symptoms were managed simply by the medication. There were still some lingering voices and delusions, but I’ve learned to cope with them.
The one thing that made my recovery possible, besides medication, was my mom. From the very day I got home until now, she has shown me unconditional love and support and a true willingness to fully understand me and be there for me. This year has not been “the perfect recovery.” In this year alone, I’ve had a suicide attempt, a drug overdose accompanied with a felony possession charge, a reckless driving conviction, a DUI conviction, losing my job, and a host of other difficult situations. My mom has stuck with me through all of this, never giving up on me. It was her love for me, that made it possible for me to love myself. She gave me the courage to fight through another day. Ultimately, I learned how to believe in myself and that I had the power within me to overcome all my battles. I learned to find the positive in a negative and to stay focused on my goals.
I am now almost finished with school and on my way to becoming certified as a substance abuse counselor, I have also become trained as a NAMI Connections support group facilitator and I co-facilitate a meeting every Monday night. With all the ups and downs that have filled this past year, I have managed to focus on the ups and remain stabilized on my medications and active in my treatment plan. I finally feel like I have a grip on my own life. I am now dedicated to helping those who have suffered with mental illness and drug addiction like I have.
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