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When I was married to my first husband, one Sunday morning I decided to go to church. It was exactly the sermon I needed to hear so slowly, I started attending. I felt like that place, that church, and the people were true to their faith and it would be a good place for me to grow. I became pregnant and was having complications and so many people were praying for us, I had faith to believe Patience would be alright no matter when she was born.

My marriage ended and there was no judgement from the pastors or members. When Patience became involved with the toddlers in the children’s ministry, I became involved. During this time I made friends, joined the church, was baptized, and became one of the leaders of a small group of little ones in the children’s ministry. I would serve as the instructor for Patience’s age group certain Sundays and led the class on Wednesday nights. I loved the volunteer work I was doing.

One Sunday, we had a special guest, a faith healer. I do not remember his name and when I try to ask someone, they always would get stuck on another minister who was known for faith healing. It was a great service and they started lining up people to be prayed over for whatever they needed to be healed. I watched and wanted to go. I watched and saw person after person get prayed upon and fall to the floor almost like they fainted. I wanted to believe and I wanted healing. I wasn’t worried about the psychotic symptoms at that time or the occasional hypomanic episode or the rare full blown mania. I wanted to address my depression. I wanted it gone.

I finally talked myself into it and started my way down to the front. When he got to me, I told him I was there for depression and how I had been dealing with it for many, many years. He asked me if I really wanted it until I was shouting yes. He put his hand on my head and prayed. I fell back in the almost fainting position on the floor. When the ushers helped me up, I felt a tingly sensation and felt a bit strange but good.

I started feeling so good, the church was praising this as my miracle. They used my testimony to encourage others to believe. In my personal life, I found a job. I was getting a lot of things done, started talking faster than usual, eating less, sleeping less, I felt a little euphoric and didn’t think anything could touch me. I felt blessed. The voices I was still hearing I was convinced were Jesus and an angel. I also thought I sometimes heard God. Months went by and I felt like this good feeling would never end because I believed I was going to never have another depressive bout again. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize the obvious. I was manic but just hypomanic, delusional, and so excited about everything.

Well, like all episodes of mania, they never last forever. I was starting to slip back into a state of depression. I was crashing hard. I went to my primary doctor for some antidepressants. (I still did not want to address the other issues.) I lost a lot of weight, was restless, and trying to continue to be the miracle that was cured of depression so I put on a facade. One day, one of the ladies in the ministry asked me how I was losing so much weight and I told her depression and anxiety. She asked me what had I done because those are the devil’s playground and I had been cured. It all was unraveling and the ladies in the children’s ministry started to notice, so did my Sunday school teacher. My miracle was gone.

Now, adding just an antidepressant can give a person who is bipolar into a bit of a mania or maybe mixed episodes, which are not euphoric like the mania. I had more of a mixed episode. There was energy, restlessness, but also irritability. I had energy but not the motivation to do anything. I was getting headaches and slowly backing out of the children’s ministry as it was all too much. This only made the ladies I had befriended ask more questions.

Finally, my Sunday school teacher drilled me in Sunday school in front of the members of my class and then said I was the reason I had lost my miracle. God took it from me. She questioned how much time I spent in prayer, how much time I spent reading my Bible, and why I had not yet received the gift of tongues as others in my class had already been blessed to have. She said it was my lack of faith. I let the devil plant seeds of doubt in my head. The ladies in the children’s ministry had backed off from talking to me about this time as well. I wasn’t sure, but I felt like they were all talking about me.

I thought one of the ladies was a particularly close friend. When I returned to work, she became my daycare provider for Patience. I was getting frustrated with her because everyday, Patience came home with black socks or black feet. Patience told me that my friend was showing her how to sweep, mop, vacuum and dust. Patience was 2. They took three naps a day even though I told her Patience was not to nap because she would be up all night. I would send food with my daughter for lunches yet she said she was fed hot dogs each day. One night when I was picking Patience on a Wednesday, my friend asked if I would be teaching the young ones that night. I had another headache so I said I would not.

She told me that she, her husband, and some other members of the church had a meeting to discuss me with our pastor. Since I kept switching my schedule for working with the children or I would not be there at all, they were taking away my position. She further informed me that as my daycare provider, she was entitled to benefits like paid vacation, paid holidays, and other things an employer provided to its employees. She said she and her husband had discussed with the pastor and they came to the conclusion that I was taking advantage of her. She was more like a babysitter than a daycare provider. She had no preschool curriculum, activities, or any of the things she promised she would be doing. She was not licensed and I was paying her cash. She didn’t follow my instructions for Patience’s lunch or to not nap during the day and having Patience do housework when she was only 2. I came back to her with my own conditions. I wanted a copy of her home insurance that showed any accidents Patience has in her care would be covered in full (she informed me that their homeowner’s insurance and lapsed). I told her she had to get licensed, take CPR, and plan activities. She had to provide the basic services that a full daycare provided. Lastly, since she was not an employee in the traditional sense and if she was considered an employee, she was the only one and I was not required to provide benefits like health insurance and I would have to start paying her by check to list the deductions for taxes I would start taking from her pay

I stopped going to children’s ministry after Wednesday was taken away and they started treating Patience differently so I had to have her with me during the church service. I stopped going to Sunday school too. One day, I received an email from my teacher telling me to stop chasing men and start attending church, quit my job if it was going to interfere with my work with the children because this was not the job God wanted for me, and to start getting back in the word so God would have mercy and grant me my miracle again. She said I had to wait for God to put a man in my life, wait for God to find me the right job, and let God lead me as I put myself in the word.

I was more than offended. I had not been chasing men so that was not the reason for my absence. I was tired of being questioned about how I was doing only to be told it was all my fault I lost my miracle. I was not going back into a ministry since I guess you could say fired me and asked that I not be involved in that area of volunteering. I also needed to work and I liked the job I had at that time. After my divorce, I was without a job and no child support so I was on government assistance for a long time. I wasn’t going to go back on food stamps just because some church members thought I was in a job that was bad for me since it “removed me from serving God”.

I was so hurt. For the very first time, I did not feel God’s presence in that church. I wanted to know why the pastor and others had a meeting about me without asking me to attend so I could address the issues where the others felt I was falling short. I fired the lady watching Patience and I pulled her out of it.

I miss church. I want to be a part of one but I am still so hurt and worried it will happen again. This experience crushed my spirit.

Since then, I have finally told psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, friends and family the entire extent of my mental state. My diagnosis changed. I was finally getting treatment for all the issues that were in my life. I had a very intense psychotic episode that I haven’t fully recovered from so I have been doing some of the things I need to do to recover. I know I will never be cured no matter how many prayers are said for me. I am growing. I am learning to adjust and try to make my life manageable with the hand I’ve been dealt.

If I find a church again, they must have more accepting views on mental illness and not push that with prayer, all will be healed. It is a devastating way to address these types of mental illnesses within a church setting because what about those of us who have prayed, had many pray over him or her and nothing changed. Why did God not meet their prayers? This is discouraging and leads to despair. No one should leave any type faith feeling terrible about who they are. I want to find a place that doesn’t tell me that I lost my miracle because it was a miracle that really wasn’t.

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I haven’t been writing lately. I am dealing with the voices that do not stop and lately some breakthrough visual hallucinations. I wish things were different or at least bearable like it used to be. I know I should have gotten help sooner when my psychosis was running rampant in my mind and I was convinced that I had crossed the line between reality and my symptoms convincing me I wasn’t coming back. I hid it the best I could because I did not want to go to the psych ward. I was afraid if I went because of all the things going on with me, I would be there a very long time. I also feared I would be put in a home and I couldn’t bear the thought of being away from Patience. She was very young at that time and she needed me in a way that only a mother can be there.

I am still isolating. Part of it is because I do not want to burden my loved ones with my life and all the things going on in my head. I don’t know why when someone asks me how things are I feel compelled to tell them exactly what I have been experiencing. It must sound like fiction. The best feeling in the world is when a dear friend tells you that she didn’t understand or know how to help when we are younger but she thinks she is beginning to understand. She believes me. She is trying to come to grips with my quirks that the diagnoses do to me.

Now, maybe she is not as well versed in any of the disorders I live with but she is trying. So many friends seem to be keeping me at a distance. I try to text them, call them, make plans with them. To my texts and calls, no response is given. Our plans are always cancelled last minute. It is heartbreaking for me. I have been thinking of getting a group together of members to one of my support groups of people who live in my area. I want to do it but I fear all will cancel and I don’t know if I can take any more rejection. I isolate and when I reach out I feel rejection because things never work out for the get together.

It is okay because I move past it. I isolate to protect myself but it means the world to me that a friend is beginning to see. I wish we lived close to each other. I have only visited her once since I graduated college. We have teens that are the same age. She was always supportive even though I know I scared her when she was my roommate. That wasn’t fair to her but I wasn’t in my right mind. I am so glad she came home when she did.

For now, I will enjoy the fact that she said she wishes she could have done more when I broke and had an episode while rooming together. I appreciate her trying to understand on some level. It means so much to know someone isn’t scared of you, isn’t trying to talk you into thinking it’s all in my head, not giving well-meaning but hurtful advice.  I feel accepted. I will have bad days but someone who I adore is trying to understand.

I wish you knew how much that means to me or anyone who lives with mental illness or multiple mental illnesses. It lifts me up and restores my hope. Love to you!

Schizoaffective Disorder and Me

I’m sure many of you have noticed that besides posting cat memes I am big on posting memes to my wall regarding mental illness and to fight the stigma related to mental illness. I post articles about various illnesses like schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. I post these things because I know what it’s like. I can relate to what I post. As many of you know, I live with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type and panic disorder.

Now, I didn’t get this diagnosis that long ago but I believe I have lived with it since I was very young. Part of me liked to believe everybody saw things that weren’t really there and heard voices. The other part of me was terrified that if it wasn’t normal, I would get locked away in an asylum. I chose to not speak of it at all. Not even to my closest friends.

Schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type is basically symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When I’m not on meds, I suffer with tactile, visual and auditory hallucinations. I live with irrational paranoia. Sometimes I cannot sort out my words to speak and I’ll drift from one topic to another in one sentence leaving my audience confused. I’ve also lived with intrusive thoughts and suffer from delusions, These come with a mood disturbance but they also come when I am feeling fine. With medication, I only have to live with the voices. Despite some of the horrible side effects, the personal gain I get from being medicated outweigh the undesired side effects. For years, I would go to a new psychiatrist or psychologist or both seeking help for my depression, then my mania, then for both. I rarely spoke of the psychotic features but was diagnosed with bipolar I with psychotic features. My treatment usually focused on an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer. This was not effective since it was not doing anything for my psychosis but I didn’t want to talk about it. I was afraid of it.

Finally, after years of treatment and therapy, I spoke up to my therapist. Then I spoke up to a psychologist during a psychiatric evaluation. Finally, I found a new place to receive my psychiatric treatment and I told them everything I had been dealing with over the years. My treatment changed. I started all new meds. After a while, I started to feel better. My hallucinations were coming less and less (except for the voices as I stated earlier). I’m not as paranoid, my speech is more organized and I can usually reason my way out of a delusion using logic. I still go see my therapist. I go to my pdoc (prescribing doctor) every couple of months to check in with my meds and get refills. I also started going to group therapy called IOP which stands for intensive out-patient program. Now I when I’m in therapy processing what is going on with me at any given time, I feel free to speak openly about what I experience.

Recovery for me doesn’t mean I’ll ever be cured. There is no cure for mental illnesses. This isn’t simply sadness for a traumatic event in my life or severe mood swings. This is a real illness. By looking at me, you wouldn’t know that I’m hearing voices while you are trying to talk but that is my reality. I must learn to live with it and manage my life accordingly.

For me, recovery means having the coping skills to manage my symptoms. Recovery means taking my meds as they are prescribed each day. Recovery means learning to accept the things I can no longer do. I;m in recovery now. It might not look like recovery to some but I’ve come a long way. I’m not ashamed of it. It’s part of who I am but not all that I am. It’s what makes me quirky. I’m not crazy. I have different challenges than most of you. That doesn’t mean I’m a different person than the one you have always known. I’m still that same person but now, I’m getting treatment for symptoms that have plagued me since I was a child.

I have a mental illness and I am not afraid if anyone knows. Stigma be damned. I have schizoaffective disorder and panic disorder but I’m managing the best I can. You know me. That me you knew is still here. I really hasn’t changed at all. Only now, I have an explanation for some of my quirks and I am learning to live like I never thought I could before.

Familiar Faces

I have strange visual hallucinations sometimes but the ones that confuse me the most are the ones that come when I am out in public.  On certain days, EVERYBODY looks like someone I know.  I have to slow down and look really closely at each face.  Sometimes they morph back right before my eyes to a stranger. I am not saying they look strange.  They just no longer look like someone I know.  Usually by that time, I have already given a hearty “Hello” and get odd stares from the stranger. Other times, I never get close but I think the person can tell I was staring and they simply walk away. 

Then there are the times when I look and distinctly see someone I know.  I get almost giddy with the chance to say hello.  Sometimes people may mistake it for genuine affection and confused because we were never close in a way that should trigger the reaction I have.  But it is such a treat to me when I see something familiar and it is actually there.  I want to hug the person or people.  I am a hugger by nature.  If I am a feeling hypo-manic, I just want to hug them really hard and it isn’t always appropriate.  Then there are the days when I see people and I cannot place it no matter how hard I try.   I wish I had a better filter on my reactions.

If I am on a downswing in my moods, I may avoid eye contact because to be wrong and hug a stranger would be beyond weird for all of us.  I totally doubt my eyes and try not to look around at all.  Once again, it isn’t you.  It is my mind and the tricks it plays on me.  Moods and stressors also play with my hallucinations so I could be totally out of sorts at the moment.  I mean no offense.  I simply am not sure if you are there.

So, if you see me at the store or in the car next to you, come up and say hello.  It is possible I do not mean to stare or ignore you.  I am just not sure if you are really there but would love the chance to say hello and give you a hug.  Take care out there. You never know when I may be staring at you next.

 

 

Bunny to be loved

Bunny to be loved.